Pollution! Nobody’s Baby!

Recently all of us have heard of pollution issues that are literally choking Delhi and probably this is only the beginning. As usual we go about the issues as if it is Government problem and has nothing to do with us. There are a couple of things that need to be considered. Nobody could have predicted that India will manufacture 3 million four wheelers per year and one million plus two wheelers per month by 2015. Increased car ownership can be considered as effect of liberalization. This improved the economy  at a rapid pace, at the same time growth of IT sector started. Combined effect of these two factors led increase in aspirations of fast growing middle class. But growth of two wheelers is purely because of poor infrastructure of roads and public transport in our cities. A society is considered developed if middle class and upper middle class people in that society travel by public transport.

Consider any city in India. Except for Mumbai, where does public transport carry large number of people daily. What is their other option? People have to move like Sardines packed in the “Local” trains. Ask any Mumbaikar about Metro and he will agree that ALL trains in Mumbai should be like Metros! Why Rs.90000/ crores planned for Shinkansen cannot be used to Mumbai “local” train quality improvement? (I am aware that its a special deal) Millions of Mumbaikars will bless the Government if this is done. What are our governments priorities? What are our society’s priorities? What do we want to achieve? Do we want to become a four/two wheeler dependent society? Do we have the discipline to become individually owned vehicle based society? Are we at all striving to become an advanced nation?

What is really adding to pollution? I am comparing data in general and not for any specific category. During discussions on pollution, we talk only of vehicles like cars, trucks, buses et al but there are other factors too. I am discussing Delhi issues because it has become first city in India to have really suffered. Factors contributing to pollution in Delhi are

  1. Winter/Weather
    1. Winter causes stagnation of cold weather near the earth’s surface  ie inversion due to cool air. This is not new to Delhi and has been an old phenomena
    2. Air flow patterns from Afghanistan and Pakistan, pick up from Haryana and Punjab, smoke created by farmers burning the straw in the fields.
    3. Delhi generates 10000 tons municipal solid waste per day. This is burnt every day.
    4. Pre monsoon dust storm also add to this issue
  2. Industry
    1. Delhi has massive construction projects going on; these add to pollution
    2. There are many industries in Delhi
  3. Power generation plants
    1. Badarpur power plants are 30 to 40 year old. Plants use very poor coal quality and have very old design equipments with almost zero automation. This cause high pollution as well as cost.
  4. Vehicles all types
    • Delhi has 7.5 million vehicles on its roads. Many of them older than 15 years.
    • By sheer volume, we miss out that two wheelers also have equal share in pollution because they are 70% of total vehicle population.
    • Government policies have kept diesel cheaper than CNG for most of the period thereby discouraging the use of CNG
    • Diesel buses which carry 50/60 passengers are taxed more than diesel cars.
    • Large number of trucks going to other destinations  just pass through Delhi though they have no business to be in Delhi.
  5. Dust cleaning from roads
    1. In India road cleaning is done every day using “Zaru”, a broom. With this method maybe 50% of the dust that should have been collected goes into air adding to pollution.
    2. It is seasonal but Diwali fire crackers add to pollution
  6. Delhi has a typical mix of Government authority where Delhi is a state Government but has a very large number Central Government establishments. This causes the clash of authorities so taking decision can be tricky for both!
  7. It is Supreme Court that has been pushing the Government. Supreme Court has now taken actions which best can be described as knee jerk. What is going to happen by not allowing to register say 15000 large diesel SUV/C class vehicles?
  8. Delhi citizens almost pay no money for parking their vehicles on public roads. This leads to indiscriminate buying of vehicles. In cities like New York 30 years back people had pay US$ 300/ per month to park their cars in apartment complexes.
  9. Besides this Governments policies play a major role in vehicle pollution issues. Following two tables show the Indian standards and European Standards for pollution norms.
  10. EuroNorms
  11. BharatNorms
  12. When the policies were declared by European Union, which were then followed by Indian Government, the EU wanted to reach Euro VI standard by September 2014. Whereas Indian goal was equivalent of Euro V by 2017! This is where the real issues start. Pre liberalization there used be Hindu Growth rate of 2.5% per year in India. Probably as we believe in Karma, we are in no hurry to change things. When this rate grew to between 6 & 8%, pollution also started galloping. We just forgot to change our targets  for pollution control which probably would have been ok for Hindu Growth rate! .
    1. Even on decided targets there is a major failure in implementation.
    2. Currently for fuel supplies, Northern India and large cities in other parts of India get BS IV for petrol & diesel. Rest of the country is expected to be BS IV in Jan 2016, BS by Jan 2020 and BS VI by 2023!!  Unconfirmed report says that industry will struggle to meet even BS IV norms by 2017.
    3. Vehicle industry says it will struggle to make BS V by 2020 and  BS VI by 2024!
    4. This proves one thing we are very adept at selecting appropriate names. EURO norms name is converted to BS. I need not elaborate the meaning of “BS”.
  13. Large Industries have money to open new factories but they do not have money to improve their Vehicles for better norms. Our Government owned fuel companies have thousands of crores to spend on marketing and opening new pumps. But they do not have money to improve refineries to make improved quality fuels.
  14. Why Government cannot give stringent targets to Automobile manufacturers and Fuel companies for going straight to Euro VI or Bharat VI norms? All these groups make noise but if they are forced they will do it. It is about putting correct priorities! Is it about the lack of political will? Is it about the clout of these big companies? Is it plain bribery? Why can’t Government push Public sector companies?
  15. Governments work on these issues only when the Supreme Court pushes them, otherwise everything is seems to be hunky dory.
  16. In olden days also I remember very foggy weather in Delhi in winters. Practice of cleaning roads with “Zaru” is an age old practice. Supreme court has already forced Smog caused by burning of straws in fields in Haryana and Punjab is also a very old practice. The factors mentioned were causing problems even in those days but word pollution was not in fashion.
  17. When nations proceeded rapidly towards industrialization they adopt new technologies, new ways of doing things. I am sure people must have been defecating in open in most countries in olden days. But this changed drastically. But in India in spite of Government trying very hard by making laws like “having toilets in home” as a pre-qualification for standing for local elections, people build the toilets but still defecate outside! Oh, we like it that way!! You will hardly see anyone spitting in developed countries. Mind you tobacco chewing was rampant in these countries too!
  18. Unless Governments, Industries, Fuel Companies, People all make concentrated efforts jointly and simultaneously problems of pollution will just remain that, Problems of Pollution, irrespective of whether we have authorities like National Green Tribunal (NGT)

In conclusion, we can say that following factors are causing pollution in Delhi.

  • Large number of vehicles and incorrect policy on diesel
  • Government apathy on regulations
  • Atmospheric conditions in winter
  • Auto makers & Oil industry taking advantage (gain what?) of lack of political will of Governments
  • Age old practices not being changed, road cleaning by “Zaru” & straw burning in farms
  • General apathy of public in not forcing  Government to pass strong laws. Yesterday’s example of passing of “Juvenile Justice Bill”. Public pressure forced law makers to pass this bill in the parliament.

Advertisements

Author: panvalkarpramod

I am an engineer by training and run my own business. I like to blog but do not yet get enough time.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s