The United Residents Joint Action (URJA) of Delhi, a consortium of more than 2,500 resident welfare associations (RWAs) in the national capital, on Friday launched a citizen driven monitoring campaign to accelerate the fight against air pollution.
Representatives from 13 identified hotspots of Delhi will work closely with the Municipal Corporations of Delhi and help report incidents of waste burning, debris dumping or other violations in their area.
Pre- and post-Diwali, Delhi has consistently witnessed ‘very poor’ and ‘severe’ Air Quality Index (AQI).
The Supreme Court has been reprimanding both the Centre and the state government for their failure to reign in pollution levels.
In 2019, Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) and Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC) had identified Rohini, Dwarka, Okhla Phase-2, Punjabi Bagh, Anand Vihar, Vivek Vihar, Wazirpur, Jahangirpuri, RK Puram, Bawana, Mundka, Narela and Mayapuri as hotspots in the city.
The hotspots have an annual average PM10 exceeding 300 Ig/m3 and PM2.5 concentration of more than 100 Ig/m3. While the CPCB safety standards are 60 Ig/m3 and 40 Ig/m3 for PM10 and PM2.5, respectively.
“Waste burning, and construction & demolition (C&D) waste have been identified as key problem areas for pollution in the hotspots,” a release from URJA said.
As the hotspots continue to remain polluted, URJA through its nominated members aim to monitor compliance and implementation by maintaining consistent contact with the deputy commissioners of the respective MCD zones of the hotspot and monitor violations.
The representatives will also rope in other residents through WhatsApp groups, to use their mobile phones to take images and videos of incidents of garbage burning during the day and night, C&D waste dumping, fumes from industries, restaurants and roadside cooking.
URJA President Atul Goyal said: “The air pollution in these hotspots has been consistently high and there is a need to ensure implementation of the action plans of the government. Residents in these hotspots are the most affected by the high levels of pollution and can be the most instrumental in changing things on ground.”
“We need to establish the state government’s accountability to its citizens and demand a roadmap for reducing 12 per cent annual pollution reduction and two-thirds by 2025, as was committed during Delhi elections.”
Experts too commend the role of citizens in better policy implementation.
“Pollution hot spots exist because of the local, typically dispersed, sources adding to the mix. There are a lot of rules and norms already in place that can help reduce the air pollution at these hot spots, but these are hard to enforce without extensive citizen awareness, participation, and cooperation. RWAs play an important mediating role – both aiding government efforts and holding agencies accountable,” Fellow of the think tank, Centre for Policy Research, Dr. Santosh Harish said.
Based on data sourced from the NCAP Tracker, for most part of the year, the PM2.5 concentration at the 13 hotspots has been above the CPCB’s permissible limits of 40 micrograms per cubic metre (ug/m3). On their worst days, all locations had a PM2.5 concentration of 400 to 500 ug/m3, more than 10 times above CPCB’s limits and 20 times that of the WHO’s revised Air Quality guidelines, the URJA release said.
The DPCC, earlier this month, too had identified five high-polluting areas in Delhi-NCR, which are adjacent to existing pollution hotspots. These five high-polluting areas are Sanjay Gandhi Transport Nagar, Peeragarhi, Rohtak road, Azadpur and Sarai Rohilla.