By: Kamala Kelkar
Shuttering coal power plants, promoting motor-less transport and strict penalty for those violating pollution control norms are among the suggestions that the government is looking at to improve the air quality in the city over the next five years.
The Department of Environment has been scripting an ambitious action-plan to regulate and monitor pollution-causing agents in the air. The details of the plan, called Second Generation Action Plan, are being fine-tuned before it is sent to the Cabinet for approval. Officials said the plan should be finalised in a month.
Some of the key suggestions in the plan include checking construction dust by making it mandatory for builders to get environment clearance, annual inspection of private vehicles and a sharp increase in the parking charges in the city.
“We want strict repercussions, fines and prosecution…. Anybody can pay Rs 20 for parking, but if the rates are increased to Rs 100 or Rs 200, then people will use public transport,” Director of Environment department Dr Anil Kumar said.
It has been a decade since the first five-year generation plan was passed and implemented, from 1998 to 2003. Since then, the number of vehicles has increased to 7.4 million. Kumar, who is also a member of the Delhi Pollution Control Committee, said this could be twice the number of vehicles in 2003.
The growth in number of vehicles and lack of regulation negates the effects of the initial plan, he said.
A recent study by a World Health Organization initiative revealed that air pollution is among the leading causes of death in the world, especially in Asian cities that are developing fast. The report said 7.12 lakh people in South Asia, including India, died due to air pollution related ailments in 2010.
Anumita Roychowdhury, an executive director at Centre for Science and Environment and a specialist in air pollution, requested a rush order on the plan after dense fog hovered over Delhi in November.
“Smog patterns show that the duration of these episodes are increasing,” Roychowdhury said. “If we don’t change, they will just get worse.”
Kumar said other departments impacted by the plan, such as the Department of Health and Family Welfare, will also have to agree to implement the new guidelines before the plan gets a nod from the Cabinet.