Ahead of the winter season, Delhi has declared war against air pollution and has taken various measures into consideration to make the national capital free from toxic air. Delhi Environment Minister, Gopal Rai, chaired a meeting with various stakeholders to identify problem areas and solutions to tackle them. During the meeting, 15 points were highlighted as major causes of air pollution in the Delhi-NCR region during the winter months for the past couple of years. Restrictions on stubble burning, a ban on bursting of crackers, open garbage burning, pollution from vehicles, and industrial pollutants are some of the issues discussed.
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal will be preparing a Winter Action Plan and will release it in October. According to the Delhi Environment Minister, various departments have been asked to share a detailed plan to curb air pollution by September 25, after which the Chief Minister will unveil a comprehensive plan of action.
Over the years, especially during the winter season, Delhi and its neighbouring areas get engulfed in thick layers of smog, exposing residents to toxic air pollution. People in the neighbourhood suffer from various airborne and lung diseases like asthma, bronchitis, chronic lung infections, irritation in the eyes, and skin diseases, to name a few.
Most of the pollution is caused by stubble burning, the burning of crackers, and open garbage burning. Stubble burning has been a major contributor to air pollution in Delhi-NCR during the peak winter period. These stubbles are burnt in nearby farm areas, releasing toxic gases like methane, carbon dioxide, and monoxide into the air. The governments of Delhi, Punjab, Haryana, and Uttar Pradesh have implemented various measures to reduce stubble burning through incentives, awareness programmes, and regulations.
Another factor that exacerbates the air pollution problem is the bursting of crackers. During the Diwali festival, the burning of crackers makes the air unsuitable for breathing, rendering the air quality in the region hazardous to human health. The Delhi government has, over the past couple of years, imposed a blanket ban on the sale, purchase, and bursting of firecrackers.
The third most crucial contributor to the increase in air pollution is pollution from factories and vehicles. The government has restricted construction during the peak winter season and limited the entry of heavy vehicles into the city during the daytime to curb pollution.
Delhi has identified 13 hotspots that are susceptible to an increase in air pollution. Separate action plans will be prepared for these hotspots.
Blanket ban on firecrackers will continue, including the ban on green crackers. The government has also implemented various laws to ensure the effectiveness of the ban, including imposing heavy fines for violators.
Experts have suggested the idea of artificial rain to monitor the air quality of the region and reduce smog accumulation in the air.