Sunday, 19 November 2017

Delhi's Pollutants

RottenMangoMan Blogger Do Some Agencies Welcome Delhi Pollution Cartoon
Delhi - NCR Annual Pollution Fest

Delhi has been grappling with pollution for the longest time ever it seems. In 1998, after the Supreme Court verdict[i] ordering all buses, 3-wheelers and cabs to convert to CNG, Delhi-ites thought the worst was over.

In the years to come, what was once considered sporadic fog or smog, slowly turned into an annual suffocating ritual.
This year the problem of poor air quality is being experienced in a large part of Northern India and not just confined to the National Capital Region. Schools in Delhi and Gurugram were also shut for a week-10 days during November.
But how is possible that all the custodians of our policy makers and enforcers are helpless in tackling this menace despite so much public, media and social media pressure and despite the fact that a drop in air quality has been regularly occurring each winter ? In order for the PM 2.5 and PM 10 pollution be tackled, there appears to be other types of pollution peculiar only to India which must be first cleared.
Unfortunately Delhi also suffers from a polluted political atmosphere as well, as murky as the suffocating smog that has engulfed it. After the Aam Aadmi Party came to power, the Bhartiya Janata Party as well as the Indian National Congress are still nursing the wounds of a humiliating defeat [ii] during the Delhi elections in 2015. The AAP carries a similar feeling of resentment at the loss of the Municipal Corporation of Delhi [iii] [iv]elections.
With Multiple authorities and political parties governing various departments within Delhi as well as different parties ruling the adjacent states of Haryana and Punjab surrounding Delhi, there appears to be a vindictiveness amongst the various Chief Ministers and Central Ministers where the administrators appear to choose to allow the condition in Delhi to deteriorate. The worse the conditions, the more political fodder it provides to the parties in opposition.
Coupled with this is the dilemma and reluctance of all political parties to stop farmers from crop burning-currently being blamed as the main causative factor[v] (also read Lancet Journal..[vi]) for the situation in Delhi. Farmers are an important vote-bank. Crop burning [vii] is a cheaper alternative for the farmers to dispose off the harvested paddy to allow for the next plantation of wheat. While technological solutions exist, cost factor as well as knowledge transfer of using machines to tackle this problem would take time. There has been some progress reported from Punjab, where the instances of crop burning are reportedly lesser as compared to last year, but still a long way to go. Till the time the solutions are successfully implemented on the scale required, political parties continue to play the blame game. The dilemma is most apparent with the AAP which is ruling in Delhi but is the major opposition party in neighbouring state of Punjab. So while it supports crop burning in Punjab, the Delhi Government opposes the move.

While it's not surprising, that the Courts have to often take matters into their own hands, the poor implementation ensures that there is no change in the status quo. The Supreme Court verdict to ban the sale of fire crackers during Diwali, the main Hindu festival everyone looks forward to, was another such example. No Government in India would be willing to implement or enforce such a ban which affects such a huge chunk of the vote-bank. Thus the silence of the political leadership was understandable, though not acceptable. A large number of Hindus have allegedly been offended by the ban and are really not in the mood to listen to any sermons on pollution, with the result that people brought and sold crackers on the sly.[viii] [ix]
Other glaring examples are the media reports [x]of poor enforcements of pollution control measures banning Generators, entry of trucks carrying non-essential goods and  Construction.
The fact is that the methods which are being implemented are mainly in line with the Graded Response Action Plan.[xi] [xii] These are meant for emergencies and appear to do too little too late. These have also failed to offer any conclusive evidence or reducing pollution levels. Data related to the earlier odd even scheme did not show significant co relation [xiii] with improving the air quality index.
Apparently missing are long term pollution control measures. According to a study [xiv], trees in urban areas assist in reducing the levels of fine particulate matter. However as per the Forest Department website of the Delhi Government, Delhi's Tree Cover has been steadily declining[xv] for the past several years.
SFR -2011 (area in sq. km./% 
of geographic area)
SFR-2013 (area in sq. km./% 
of geographic area)
India SFR – 2015 (area in sq. km./% of geographic area)

Tree Cover 

Forest Cover
120 (8.09%)
176.20 (11.88%)
118 ( 7.9%)
179.81 (12.12%)
111 (7.5%)
188.77 (12.73%)
296.20 ( 19.97%)
297.81 (20.08%)
299.77 (20.22%)

In response to an RTI application, it has been found that Delhi's ruling AAP government apparently failed to utilise [xvi] Rs. 787 Crore through environmental cess in 2015-16. The amount could have been used to purchase electric buses to assist in reducing traffic congestion or conduct detailed studies on methods to improve Air Quality Index.
Delhi's Chief Minister had declared last year that in order to curb pollution, Delhi's roads would be vacuum cleaned[xvii] from April 2017,[10] a promise that hasn't been fulfilled so far.
Even though India's National Green Tribunal had come down heavily [xviii]on the Government inaction, it is unlikely that the measures being taken right now would be effective in improving things unless the weather improves.
Delay in completion [xix]of additional routes of Delhi Metro means that there is further reliance on the automobile sector which adds to the pollution.
Apparently not a single institution of our Nation has the will to implement the harsh steps required for controlling pollution. These steps may involve removal of all polluting vehicles, stopping the crop burning period as well as enforcing zero construction rules from October to February.
In response to my tweets against pollution, I got a reply from @lightstalker_AB expressing anguish because his voice against pollution had been scuttled by a Government official.

I condemn such violence and if true, I wish the official had shown the same aggression to fight pollution instead of it's citizens.

Since “appearing to” fight pollution is considered fashionable now-a-days, Delhi’s super elite have formed clubs, websites and promoted hash-tags without doing anything meaningful. Dressed immaculately they appear on TV channels, urging people to fight pollution while sitting in studios fitted with air purifiers or wearing expensive gas masks and leaving the same studios in their expensive polluting SUVs. India's celebrity captain of Indian Cricket Team Virat Kohli (read another rotten article[xx]) used the opportunity to promote the Ola radio cab[xxi]. Radio cabs were issued summons[xxii] by a Delhi court for violating the law, including running cabs on polluting diesel, which has been banned by the Supreme Court. Besides, these are the same radio cabs which spike their fares during odd-even schemes. Other had been or wannabe celebrities have also joined this bandwagon at self- promotion and self-glorification.They simply pollute the airtime with their senseless verbose.
Life they say always finds a way. Well so does marketing. This choking toxic rotten environment has manifested its unique ecosystem of economics. Air purifier companies are looking to make a killing. The media is partnering them effectively by scaring the life out of people, convincing them that they and their loved ones would die if they do not purchase the air purifiers. In case you are bold enough to challenge this theory, they tell you that pollution has surely shaved a couple of years off your lifespan. The media campaign is brutal, merciless and ceaseless, till the point you rush to purchase the air purifiers and gas masks. The unfortunate reality is that the effectiveness of such gas masks and purifiers [xxiii] is itself questionable.
Much to the dismay of the political, marketing and professional polluters, the weather is clearing and the AQI is showing some signs of improvement. The alarming hurry of the Environment Pollution Control Authority (EPCA) to roll back the pollution controlling measures[xxiv] such as restricting the entry of polluting trucks, banning construction and hiking the parking fees is disappointing to say the least.

As per a recent study[xxv] by the System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting and Research (under the Ministry of Earth Sciences) and the Indian Meteorological Department (IMD)says that at least 40% of the pollution on November 8th 2017 was attributable to a “multi-day dust storm” in Iraq, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. While this study may be either correct or a face-saver released by the Government to absolve itself as well as the opposition political class,  It did acknowledge that stubble burning and “local sources” did contribute to another 25%.
What the smog in Delhi conclusively proves is that we lack the will to implement stringent long term and short term measures to combat the menace of pollution. We are still at the mercy of the Weather Gods. Classifying air pollution in the same genre of Earthquakes or other Acts of God, exposes a glaring weakness in our administrative and research capabilities.
If the media is to be believed, Delhi is “Choking” – that Delhi is a “ Gas Chamber “.
Instead of wearing gas masks, the "Nazis" responsible for this "Gas Chamber" should be correctly identified and punished. Research and out of the box thinking is the need of the hour. Perhaps, even a relook at the proper use of CNG [xxvi](currently one of the cleanest fuels)
I take the opportunity for a special mention to for having the guts to feature my cartoon[xxvii].

No. Article name AuthorExternal linkBack To Blog link

[i] Interview with Anumita Roychaudhary, CES ^

[ii] AAP storms to power in Delhi BS Reporter^

[iii] BJP sweeps MCD polls..Gaurav Vivek Bhatnagar^

[iv] Why MCD election results.. RottenMangoMan^

[v] Top 8 Main Causes for pollution in DelhiTNN^

[vi] Lancet Journal-Pollution the Global Burden of Guilt RottenMangoMan^

[vii] Delhi Air Pollution:A Crop (Burning) Issue.. Harish Damodaran^

[viii] Firecrackers easily available in DelhiDeepaRana,Runjhun Sharma^

[ix] Despite Ban 60000 Trucks Enter CapitalHindustan Times^

[x] DelhiPWD Is Defying NGT BanDeepa Rana^

[xi] Graded Response Action PlanCentral Pollution Control Board ^

[xii] G.R.A.P to help improve Delhi’s.. Times Now Digital^

[xiii] Lancet Journal- Pollution.. RottenMangoMan^

[xiv] Forest Service Study Finds Urban Trees-Northern Research Station News Release^

[xv] Extent of Forest and Tree Department^

[xvi] Arvind Kejriwal Government Accused.. FE Online^

[xvii] Delhi Roads To Be Vacuum CleanedThe Hindu^

[xviii] NGT pulls of AAP Government.. Scroll.in^

[xix] ..Metro Phase 3 could have taken 1.4 Lakh Cars Off RoadRounak Kumar Gunjan^

[xx] ..The Dressing Room MatchRottenMangoMan^

[xxi] Virat Kohli Joins Hands With OlaNews18.com^

[xxii] Ola,Uber,Taxi For Sure Issued^

[xxiii] Masks,Air Purifiers Not Completely EffectiveIndo-Asian News Service^

[xxiv] Air Better EPCA To Roll Back.. Ritam Haldar, Vibha Sharma^

[xxv] Not Stubble Burning, Study Says It Was Dust Storm.. FE Online^

[xxvi] Environmental Impacts of Natural Gas Union of Concerned Scientists ^

[xxvii] The Joke’s on Delhi ^


  1. @rottenmangoman you have presented the facts correctly. I was in Delhi a few days ago. I had to cut short my trip due to the pollution. The courts and governments need to start immediate strict action

  2. Very well written and comprehensive blog @rottenmangoman. It finally turned out that a dust storm in Kuwait was the major cause of all this fiasco. And all this while I thought it was the Indians who were polluting. Funny and sad how your media does not highlight this.

  3. Swapniel Swaminathan22 November 2017 at 07:17

    @rottenmangoman you are right. This menace of pollution must be addressed while there is still time

  4. Great blog

  5. Khujliwal and Khangress are the real pollutants.

  6. Yogi Adityanath ji's strict governance is only solution for India. Yogi ji for PM