Solving Delhi’s Air Pollution – UPSC GS1

  • As per the World Air Quality Report of 2020, published by IQAir, 22 out of the 30 most polluted cities in the world are in India.
  • Delhi’s pollution, in November, is generally above 300 on AQI scale. It is the worst amongst the G20 members capital’s where AQI is below 50 mostly, as per World Air Quality Index Project.
  • India has the world’s highest rate of death from respiratory disease, according to the World Health Organisation, with 159 deaths per 100,000 people in 2012, about five times that of the UK and twice that of China.
Why worry about this?
  • These particles can cause respiratory diseases if one is subjected to prolonged exposure to unsafe levels.
  • PM 2.5 are considered to be the most harmful kind of air pollution because they are fine enough to evade the body’s natural filters, penetrate the lungs and enter the bloodstream.
  • Short-term exposure can trigger coughing and eye and throat irritation, while longer term exposure is strongly associated with reduced lung function, heart disease and lung cancer.
Reasons for Delhi’s Pollution:
  • A report of the MoEF&CC submitted to the UNFCCC listed the reasons for it.
    • Energy generation (largely coal-based thermal power) is the biggest driver.
    • Manufacturing and construction; agriculture; transport; industrial processes and product-use, and ‘waste burning’ in the decreasing order.
  • As per SAFAR (System of Air Quality Forecasting and Research) data, the pollution in Delhi is driven by different factors in different time of year. One such being “stubble burning” during October-November.
What are the other challenges in tackling pollution in NCR?
  • Solar energy: The land taken for solar farm can’t be used for other purposes for a long time. Nothing else can be grown on those corporate solar farms.
  • Rice cultivation in NCR belt and Punjab is creating the problem of disposal of rice straws. Farmers resort to stubble burning.
  • Lack of enough charging points for Electric Vehicles(EV) is a hindrance for the EV’s smooth rollout and therefore the issue of vehicular pollution by fossil fuel based cars persists.
Way Forward:
  • Replacing coal in energy generation: 
    • As a substitute to coal, solar and wind derived energy is placed as a solution. Companies are setting up large solar farms on degraded lands. This has resulted in solar tariffs to be lower than even thermal power.
    • We should develop solar farms on farmers’ fields too, by fixing solar panels at a 10 feet height with due spacing for photosynthesis. These solar trees can then become the third crop for the farmers, earning them regular income throughout the year.
    • Case Study: Delhi government’s pilot project in Ujwa KVK land on these lines showed that farmers can earn up to Rs 1 lakh per acre per year from this ‘solar farming’.
  • The Centre needs to collaborate with neighbouring states and come up with a plan to reduce the rice area in this belt. Farmers can be incentivised to switch to other crops through better returns than in rice cultivation.
  • Creating fast charging stations for EVs in parking lots in offices, housing societies, petrol pumps, etc, can help to create demand for EVs. The government can incentivise it by providing upfront subsidies on EVs.
  • Delhi also needs a good carbon sink. Rejuvenating the Ridge area with dense forests and developing thick forests on both sides of the Yamuna may help.
Scroll to Top