Delhi can learn from other cities to clear toxic smog

Michael Taylor –
Delhi must adopt anti-pollution steps taken by other megacities like Beijing and Mexico City if the Indian metropolis is to get serious about tackling its annual smog crisis, experts say.
A toxic cloud covered India’s capital, New Delhi and surrounding areas this month, causing respiratory problems among residents and leading to school closures, flight cancellations and the declaration of a public health emergency.
The causes include poor quality of diesel used to generate electricity and power the vehicles, dust and smoke from the construction industry, and biomass and kerosene used for heating and cooking.
Stubble-burning on farmland around the city is also cited as a major cause.
“Delhi is the most polluted city in the world in terms of air quality,” Sarah Colenbrander, a researcher at the London-based International Institute for Environment and Development, said.
Delhi residents breathe in three times as many fine particles that pose the greatest risk to health than the people of Beijing, another city notorious for high pollution levels.
But Beijing has created an air pollution action plan ushering in strict traffic curbs on the s construction industry from November until March.
By limiting building work across and around Greater Beijing, dust levels have fallen, said Mukesh Khare, professor of environmental engineering at the Indian Institute of Technology.
Delhi officials also took action to stop construction when pollution levels rose this month, but they acted after the smog arrived not before, as Beijing now does.
Lists of the world’s most polluted cities are usually dominated by Indian and Chinese cities. But 25 years ago, Mexico City would always rank near the top.
Over the past decade, the city has tried unique ways to improve life in its metropolitan region.
Efforts to boost mobility in Mexico City really took off after the roll-out of a plan to connect the airport with the city centre by expanding its bus rapid transit system, said Jemilah Magnusson of the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy in New York.
As Delhi’s air quality deteriorated this month, authorities tried using fire trucks to spray water to keep dust and other air particles down and implementing an odd-even licence plate policy to limit the use of private vehicles.
The effect was limited. Delhi will benefit from investment in a mass transit system and creation of an air pollution action plan using forecasts provided by Indian meteorological department, experts said. — Thomson Reuters Foundation