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Is Delhi’s air going to take the structure of ‘London’s Smog’?

Breathing in Delhi is equal to smoking 40 cigarets.

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Smog in Delhi
In recent time, there is a huge increase in the smog in around Delhi. Wikimedia commons

New Delhi, Nov 15 On a cold December morning some 65 years ago, a seemingly dense fog engulfed the City of London. People went about their business as usual as it was a common occurrence at that time. It didn’t take long, however, for Londoners to realise that this was no regular fog but a toxic combination of smoke and fog — smog.

That Great Smog of 1952 — often called “The Big Smoke” — killed an estimated 12,000 people and had long-term ill-effects on the health of the city’s residents.

Last week, AIIMS Director Randeep Guleria compared the alarming pollution scenario in Delhi with London’s 1952 crisis. Environment experts agree that if serious steps are not taken, Delhi may soon face a similar kind of “air pollution disaster” which London did 65 years ago.

The Big Smoke did not happen in London all of a sudden. There were signs — alarming signs — as even before the 1952 crisis, the British capital experienced smog events several times in the past which they called “pea soupers”. Those were similar to what Delhi may be experiencing today.

Just as in Delhi today, the smog engulfed London, reducing visibility and causing discomfort to children and the elderly and to those suffering from respiratory diseases. The number of patients reporting to hospitals with respiratory ailments used to increase at that time of the year.

But it took the air pollution disaster of 1952 for the British government to acknowledge the magnitude of the crisis and take a slew of measures to undo the damage — including passage of the Clean Air Act 1956 and shift from coal-based fuel to alternative fuels.

While some experts wonder if Delhi is also waiting for a disaster like The Big Smoke to take stringent measures to improve the city’s air quality, others feel the disaster is already upon us and would have long-term health impacts on Delhi’s residents.

Eminent environment expert C.R. Babu said what we face in Delhi today is much more serious than the London smog.

“In London, smog killed because people faced breathing problems. But the toxins in Delhi’s air could lead to long-term problems and chronic health disorders, and not just short-term health issues,” Babu told IANS.

“Vehicular exhausts have large amounts of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons which are toxic in nature and are also carcinogenic,” he added.

Babu warned that the situation would become much worse if the government didn’t act fast. “Just like the London incident was called an ‘air pollution disaster’, what we have today is a similar disaster in Delhi. But in Delhi’s case, people will suffer for longer periods.”

“It is time for the government to think deeply about long-term planning for preventing such air pollution disasters,” he added.

According to AIIMS Director Guleria, the alarming pollution level in the city has already led to an at least 20 per cent increase in the number of persons complaining of cardiac and respiratory problems.

He also warned that about 30,000 persons may lose their lives in the National Capital Region alone due to the current pollution levels, numbers which, he said, he had extrapolated from the number of hospital admissions.

Vivek Chattopadhyay, Programme Manager at the Centre for Science and Enviromment, said it could be a watershed moment for Delhi and should not be taken lightly.

“Ultimately, we are dealing with a health crisis, not just visibility problems,” Chattopadhyay told IANS. “There are huge health costs and, as per estimates, air pollution is costing India around three per cent of the GDP in terms of health costs.”

Chattopadhyay said that the recurring smog incidents of Delhi are major warning signals and just as was the case of London before the big disaster, the powers that be in Delhi may also be unaware of the magnitude of the problem.

“The problem is that our health system won’t be able to tell how many are affected. We need a comprehensive data recording system. Hard statistics are needed about the number of cases of respiratory problems, cardiac arrests and strokes that are reported in the hospitals,” he said.

As for precautionary measures, he said there was a need to introduce clean fuel for everything and a parity of laws across NCR and not just in Delhi.

“Delhi in isolation cannot remain clean. It is high time that the government woke up and an inter-state meeting was held to collectively solve the problem. It has become a recurring thing and there is a need to change the way we work. The time for action is now,” he said.

R. Suresh, Fellow and Area Convenor at TERI (The Energy and Resource Institute), pointed out that Delhi’s response to the crisis has so far been reactive, not pre-emptive, which needed to change.

“While weather is not in our control, what we can control are ground-level emissions. What we have witnessed so far is that we face a crisis every year and then the government reacts. We need a long-term solution,” Suresh told IANS.

“We know that November-December is the peak time for air pollution. So our precautionary measures should happen before November. Why wait for Diwali to ban crackers? For next year, measures should be taken now.”

While Suresh said that the main problem was stubble burning in the neighbouring states as well as construction and road dust, Babu maintained that the exhaust from automobiles are more dangerous.

“You have to regulate automobiles — stringent measures are needed. For example, Singapore has decided to stop registration of all new vehicles. Why can’t we do that in Delhi? Almost every household has a vehicle today. More than the need, it has just become a symbol of social status,” he said. (IANS)

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Now The Delhi Government Comes Up With The Food Wastage Check Policy At Social Gatherings

"If the food is surplus due to lower turnout of the guest and resultant less consumption, then it shall be the responsibility of organiser of the social function to remove that food from the social function site, immediately after the completion of the duration of that social function," it says.

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food wastage
"Further, officers of respective ULB will conduct random or complaint-based inspection. The violations would be noted with proofs by the inspecting officers without the disrupting the function. In the event of violation of any of the conditions, the penalty would be imposed against violators under specific act/rules/orders." Pixabay

The Delhi government has drafted a policy to keep a check on the wastage of food at social functions in the national capital.

All organisers and caterers will have to register themselves with NGOs to manage the surplus and leftover food for distribution among the underprivileged, says the draft policy.

“The caterer should make proper arrangements to handover fresh surplus and leftover food to these NGOs,” reads the Draft ‘Policy for Holding Social Functions in Hotels, Motels and Low-Density Residential Area (LDRA) in National Capital Territory of Delhi’.

According to the draft policy, the owner, organiser, and the caterer must have the necessary permissions including FSSAI license from Delhi’s Department of Food Safety, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare to run their kitchens or to sell or serve prepared food for the guest and the consumer.

“They should be registered with some NGO to manage surplus/leftover food by distributing the same among underprivileged. The caterer should make proper arrangements to handover fresh surplus and leftover food to these NGOs.

The food preparation should be according to the ceiling of the number of guests as per prescribed capacity of the motel and LDRA. The number of guests cannot exceed the guest limit approved by the Urban Local Body (ULB) for that function site, it says.

“If the food is surplus due to lower turnout of the guest and resultant less consumption, then it shall be the responsibility of organiser of the social function to remove that food from the social function site, immediately after the completion of the duration of that social function,” it says.

food
According to the draft policy, the owner, organiser, and the caterer must have the necessary permissions including FSSAI license from Delhi’s Department of Food Safety, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare to run their kitchens or to sell or serve prepared food for the guest and the consumer. Pixabay

The Commissioner Food Safety shall ensure that the above conditions are strictly followed; any violation thereof would invite action from the deployed officers by the Commissioner Food Safety, the draft policy reads.

The rules will be enforced by periodical inspections, which shall be conducted by officers of various state stakeholder agencies.

“Further, officers of respective ULB will conduct random or complaint-based inspection. The violations would be noted with proofs by the inspecting officers without the disrupting the function. In the event of violation of any of the conditions, the penalty would be imposed against violators under specific act/rules/orders.”

“The capacity of the space should be determined by multiplying the total number of car parking available by four or by means the number of persons obtained by dividing the gross floor area of the premises by occupant load factor at 1.5 sqm, whichever is less,” says the document.

It said adding that the total number of days on which a social function can be organised are restricted to 120 days in authorized/approved spaces.

food wastage
The food preparation should be according to the ceiling of the number of guests as per prescribed capacity of the motel and LDRA. The number of guests cannot exceed the guest limit approved by the Urban Local Body (ULB) for that function site, it says.
Pixabay

The draft also said that motels and LDRA should be constructed as per sanctioned building plan.
“Minimum area of LDRA must be equals or more than 2.5 acres. Only such Motel and LDRA houses should be permitted to hold social functions which have proper access to the road from a main road (60 ft wide or more) and the LDRA should not be located at a road which ends in a dead end,” it said.

According to an official from the government, the decision to formulate a comprehensive policy regulating social functions was taken after the direction of the Supreme Court.

“Further, in view of Motel Policy of Ministry of Tourism 1995, policy for holding social functions in Farmhouses of Government of NCT of Delhi, Master Plan 2021(MPD 2021), amendments in MPD-2021 notified in 2013, a comprehensive policy was required to be drafted,” the official told IANS on the condition of anonymity.

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The Chief Secretary has constituted a committee of four officers, including Principal Secretaries of Urban Development and Health, Chief Executive Officer, Delhi Jal Board and Member Secretary, Delhi Pollution Control Committee, to draft the policy.

“Accordingly, the committee after consultation with all stakeholders drafted the policy keeping in mind concerns of Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority (EPCA) and Supreme Court such as stop the use of perennially installed semi-permanent pandals, nuisance of parking on outside road of the venue, safety of guests and general public, stop the misuse of scarce resources like water and stop any kind of pollution or degradation of Environment,” the official said. (IANS)