New Year fireworks eclipse odd-even results on Day 1

New Delhi, Jan 1 (IANS) The pollution metres on Friday evening showed a significant spike over the levels recorded on Thursday evening, even as the odd-even restriction took off here. Experts say this could be because of fireworks and increased traffic till late night on New Year’s eve.

At four of the six air monitoring stations of Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC), pollution levels showed a drastic rise at 6.30 pm on Friday compared to the figures of the corresponding period on Thursday.

“Due to New Year’s eve, there has been a lot of movement of vehicles throughout the night, unlike on a normal day. There has been an extensive use of crackers as well. Because of all these factors, the result that odd-even formula might have had has been reduced,” said Vikrant Tongad, an environmentalist working with Delhi-based Social Action for Forest and Environment (SAFE).

The Particulate Matter 2.5 levels at Delhi Pollution Control Committee’s (DPCC) monitoring station at Anand Vihar went up from 215 units on Thursday to 315 units on Friday and at Punjabi Bagh station grew from 94 units on Thursday to 220 units on Friday (all figures are recorded at 6.30 pm).

Compared to Thursday, the Mandir Marg and R.K. Puram stations of DPCC also showed a rise in PM 2.5 levels at 6.30 pm on Friday.

PM 2.5 (particulate matter with diameter less than 2.5 microns) levels can affect the respiratory systems of humans.

Later at 7 pm at DPCC’s Anand Vihar monitoring station, the PM 2.5 levels stood at a staggering 480 units as against the desired normal of 60 units. It was at 238 units at 11.30 a.m. At the same time, the PM 10 levels (particulate matter less than 10 microns) stood at 923 units, as against the normal 100 units. These units fall under the “poor” category of concentration of pollutants in air. The figure was at 487 units at 11.30 a.m.

According to the US Embassy in New Delhi, the air quality index stood at 269, considered “very unhealthy”.

“Very unhealthy” air can cause significant aggravation of heart or lung disease and premature mortality in persons with cadiopulmonary disease and can cause “significant” increase in respiratory effects in general population as per the mission’s data.

The experts IANS spoke to cautioned against reading too much into the readings as they say that it will take longer than just a fortnight for the lower pollution to show up in metres.

“The pollution level has not been affected even as even-odd started as the pollutants which have gathered in the air till today stay close to the ground in winter. They get trapped in the air,” Tongad told IANS.

He expected that even if the scheme becomes successful through the fortnight, in letting only odd or even numbered cars on alternative days, the pollution levels will come down only by minute levels.

“The government has exempted women-only vehicles, two-wheelers, commercial taxis which are in considerable numbers. So they are targeting only about 5-6 per cent of cars and their pollution,” Tongad explained.

He added on that if the outdated trucks, diesel vehicles, overly polluting factories and widespread construction activities are all strictly acted on, there could be a “considerable” reduction in pollution.

Four-wheelers are not the sole polluters of Delhi’s air and in consolidated manner pollute less than the large number of two-wheelers. Scooters and motorcycles make up almost two-thirds of the motor vehicles in the city, according to the DPCC. Of the 90 lakh vehicles registered in the city, some 60 lakh are two-wheelers.

According to a study by the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), two-wheelers make up for 32 per cent of the particulate matter pollution in the air, while cars contribute 22 per cent, diesel-run trucks 28 per cent, and Compressed Natural Gas-run (CNG) buses 4 per cent of the city’s air pollution.

Speaking to IANS, CSE’s Vivek Chattopadhyay recalled the time last year on Dusshera when the government attempted to have a car-free day.

“We monitored at least 60 per cent lesser PM 2.5 levels in the air after the Dusshera car-free day. One will have to wait and see how much this scheme can contribute to (clean air),” Chattopadhyay said, adding that the recent laws on banning registration of diesel vehicles and the decision to shut Badarpur power plant will help, not just the odd-even scheme.

(Bhavana Akella can be contacted at bhavana.a@ians.in)

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