A Tale of Two Cities; Delhi NCR & Bengaluru’s horrific air pollution woes

India is fast emerging as the ‘pollution site’ of the world. Some of our biggest cities regularly feature in the most polluted cities of the world list. Delhi, Bengaluru, Kolkata and even Mumbai, often bear the brunt of dust taking over the environment.

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Delhi NCR, in recent times, has consistently been the leader when it comes to pollution. Heavy dust, vehicular emissions, stubble burning and constant incoming traffic from neighbouring states, has left Delhi with little choice but to be a part of this doom.
Bengaluru on the other hand, has had similar issues from a few years now. Traffic congestion, jams that go on for hours, narrow roads, fewer changes to enhance infrastructure and a steady growth in vehicular number, has made Bengaluru a city of odds. This results in massive emission and dust accumulation.

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Both the cities are also in a constant growth phase. Whether it is metro work, new construction or repair of existing infrastructure, the dust accumulated adds fuel to the environmental woes.

Let’s understand the composition of these cities, how similar they are in their problems and how, in the future, certain steps can help manage their pollution stories.

City traffic –
Bengaluru’s city traffic is the slowest in the country and commuters, on an average, spend as much as 7% of their lives on the road. According to data there has been a growth of 257% in vehicular population over a decade and vehicular emission continues to be the dominant source for PM pollution in the city. This poses a high risk for people traveling by two-wheelers and pedestrians.

Similarly, in Delhi, emissions from the transportation sector have jumped by 40% from 2010 to 2018, according to the latest emission inventory prepared by the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology (IITM), Pune, under the ministry of earth sciences.

So, where does this lead to in the long run?There are chances of high incidences of heart attacks, respiratory disorders and consistent allergies that can only become alarming as time progresses. Particulate pollution gets absorbed into the bloodstream very quickly and results in blocked arteries.

Vehicles are more threatening than other sources of pollution as they discharge emissions directly into the air. Two-wheelers account for 56% of carbon monoxide emissions, while local air pollutants and heavy-duty diesel vehicles accounted for 60% of carbon dioxide emissions. And these are only expected to double over the next decade.

Bengaluru, for example, faces huge problem of parking, as traffic on most roads is 2.5 times higher than the capacity. Nearly 1.1 million vehicles enter Delhi every day, as recorded at eight different entry points.

Other contributors –
Cookstoves, heating fuel, kerosene lighting, poor governance (lax enforcement of standards), stubble burning, dust from construction sites and disregard for environmentally friendly options, are some other sources of air pollution, as they lead to an increase in the particulate matter.

Bengaluru’s foam lake –
From being called the City of a Thousand Lakes, to (as per sources) only 80 lakes, of which a mere 34 are actually ‘live’, the city has come a long way. Encroachment by housing complexes, bus stands, malls could be reasons for the dwindling numbers. Many that remain, are choked with untreated sewage and effluents, construction debris and garbage.

The most polluted is the Bellandur Lake which, because of its location, receives sewage and chemical effluents that flow downstream. People living around lake have been facing the brunt of froth rising from the highly polluted waterbody every day. Over the years, chemical waste that has been dumped into the lake, has been a prime reason for this pollutant accumulation. However, the citizens have now decided to take charge of the situation. Several residents are switching to eco-friendly, biodegradable and natural alternatives to mass-produced chemicals that are used in soaps, shampoos and detergents, that they feel could be a cause of the foaming.
As of March 2018, e-rickshaws are also said to be launched massively to combat vehicular emissions issues.

Delhi trouble –
Eight areas in Delhi are among the top 10 most polluted in the country, as per data from Central Pollution Control Board. Shadipur, Mundka, Bhiwadi, Gurgaon, Wazirpur, Anand Vihar, Okhla, Dwarka, Bawana, Delhi Mathura road areas fall under the ‘very poor’ to ‘severe’ category.

Measures that can be taken –
Regular clean-up of the city, ways to reduce burning of waste, regulate construction, road widening activities and training of workers involved with city cleanliness activities are some ways to overcome this issue. The government and authorities need to ensure that stringent measures are taken and all rules and regulations are followed without any slips.
A task force to advocate promotion of LPG-fuelled vehicles, removal of construction debris, monitoring public awareness campaigns and reaching out to citizens, should also be formed.

Also Read:Climate, the ‘change’ within

Both Delhi and Bengaluru are metropolitans with many stakeholders involved. A common action group should be formed that has representatives from all these sections. That will be the only way to ensure all parties give their support, buy-in to the cause and put in efforts wholeheartedly.

Both the cities with their pollution tales are parallel in the problem periphery. What they need to do is stick to a plan and garner public support towards the execution. With more measurements and reporting, India’s pollution problems will appear worse before they get better.

After all, air pollution is increasingly becoming one of the most lethal problems faced by the country. In the long run, a change in these two cities could lead to replication across other parts of India too.

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