- The government has banned construction in Delhi in order to bring down rising air pollution levels.
- Experts say construction is not the major cause for this pollution and is blaming crop-burning in neighbouring states.
- The scientific community is advising the government to devise a long-term action plan, than focus on short-term measures.
NEW DELHI: The city was enveloped in smog for most of the past week, posing a serious threat to the life of people living in the city. The government has been scrambling to combat rising pollution levels and the Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal banned all construction in New Delhi for 5 days. However, this may have little effect in improving air quality levels.
The government had previously singled out construction dust as the biggest source of pollution in Delhi. In fact, in an affidavit to the Supreme Court, the Ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF) had stated that dust contributes to about 52% of the Particulate Matter (PM) in the air. Which is why it is not surprising to see the government ban construction as the first step in combating air pollution.
However, experts beg to differ. “The government’s measures will only have a mild impact on pollution levels. Closing only one source of pollution cannot be expected to have any major implication,” says Sumit Sharma, an air quality expert with The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI).
Even the government’s own agency, the System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting and Research (SAFAR) agrees with this assessment. At a recent press conference, program director Gufran Beig put the blame squarely on crop burning in neighbouring states whose share in air pollution levels rose from zero on the 1st of November to a peak of 70% by the 6th of November.
“The government is blaming soft targets like construction and road dust for pollution,” says Vivek Chatopadhaya of the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE). A view that is certain to cheer real-estate developers who have long been saying that they were not solely at fault.
"A holistic 360 degree view should be taken to find out the real cause of pollution. By banning construction, solution will not be found. In developed countries, this does not happen,” says Getamber Anand, president of national developer body CREDAI.
Rolling the ball back into the local authority’s court, he brought out the example of Pune and Bangalore which do not suffer from as much air pollution, despite having construction activities of a similar scale to Delhi-NCR.
In spite of all this, the ban continues and construction has come to a standstill. Even the Delhi metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) has suspended work on building new lines in order to prevent dust pollution.
Air pollution has become the talk of the town and people today are becoming increasingly aware of what is actually causing pollution levels in the city to spike. Experts are advising the government to focus on long-term solutions, rather than knee-jerk measures.
Edited By Nikhil Narayan Sivadas