When the pollution levels in Delhi reach an unbearable level, farmers and stubble burning become the automatic target. It has now become a common narrative that the autumnal pollution in Delhi is caused by the stubble burning in neighbouring states. Surely, stubble burning contributes to Delhi’s pollution in a significant way. But is it the only factor?
Even if there is no stubble burning, could Delhi’s sky be cleared of all pollutants? The answer is no. In fact, Delhi’s sky remains polluted throughout the year. It is only for sometime during the monsoon season that the air quality index (AQI) in Delhi comes down to a moderate level. Stubble burning does not happen around the year, it is only a temporary phenomenon. Of course, the sudden degradation of Delhi’s air quality during the months of October-November gets an impetus by the largescale stubble burning.
A study conducted by Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology (IITM), Pune, in 2018 as part of the emission inventory stated that emissions from transportation have jumped by 40% from 2010 to 2018 in the National Capital Region (NCR). In the same period, the share of particulate matter emitted by industrial sector surged by as much as 48%. But this is largely in the border areas of NCR, according to the study. Overall emission of PM 2.5 across various sectors increased by 15% during this period.
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Both the transport and industrial sectors are leading sources of PM 2.5 emissions and account for 42.230 and 24.10 gigagrams per year, respectively of the total emissions—the study stated.
During the period of 2010-18, there was a four-fold increase in the number of registered vehicles in Delhi. The scientists highlighted in the study that the problem was aggravated by the surge in car transport services. Gufran Beig, the lead author of the study was quoted to have said, “The vehicle kilometre travelled (VKT) of these commercial cars is nearly 1.45 lakh km per year, per car, while those of personal cars is roughly 15,000 km per year per car. So, the emission generated by them is also much more.”
Everyday, nearly 1.1 million vehicles ply on Delhi roads, which include vehicles entering Delhi from other states through 8 different entry points.
Without putting a curb on the increasing vehicular emissions, Delhi’s fight against pollution can’t be completed. There is a need to control stubble burning but that cannot be realised without the government making provisions for supplying subsidised machineries to the farmers for a fast and effective removal of the stubble.
It’s high time to put a stop on the unchecked use of vehicles, both commercial and private. The odd-even strategy employed by Delhi government has made some unproven claims. Nevertheless, it should be welcomed at a time when the air pollution crisis has reached its peak. But in order to find a long-standing solution, other measures like more and efficient public transportation is a must. Government initiation encouraging people to opt for more and more public transport is needed. A limit should be put on the number of vehicles bought.
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