Come 2020, Delhi’s struggle with air pollution will enter its third decade. Previously, it used to be the privately-operated public transport bus fleet (often referred to as Blue Line) which was blamed for the black smog that overhung the national capital. Nowadays, it’s the increasing number of diesel cars and an ever-expanding population which is causing pollution by spurring the demand for electricity and construction activities in the NCR.

Add to that, the annual crop residue burning in the nearby states and large scale industrial activity in the economic zones, and you don’t have to look any further for the culprits behind the rise in particulate matter pollutants in Delhi’s air.

Back in 2002, the Delhi Metro Project was introduced by the government in a bid to increase the use of public transport. The metro system is now serving Delhi and its satellite cities of Faridabad, Gurgaon, Noida and Ghaziabad. Moreover, the private buses (Blue Line) were banned long back, and Delhi Transport Corporation switched to newer low-floor buses in a bid to reduce the vehicular emissions from public transport vehicles.

More recently, the government took a slew of measures such as the odd/even scheme and parking fee hike to promote the use of public transport. The measures lasted a short while and the results were mixed at best.

So, has public transport proved effective in combating air pollution in Delhi?

The short answer is, no.

Here are the reasons;

  • The policy governing pollution control is quite lax and is only enforced when there is a public outcry (generally during winter months).
  • The pollution control policy being floated around also lacks a cohesive action plan so far, requiring intervention from the Honorable Supreme Court at times.
  • Data suggests that the hike in Delhi Metro fares has also reduced the number of daily commuters, leading to a spike in other forms of vehicular transport. The hikes are planned to be reviewed at regular intervals. Thus, any future uptick in the number of Metro commuters looks uncertain for now.
  • The Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority (EPCA) has also noted the lack of last mile connectivity in the public transport system, citing a decline in bus fleet and ridership in its most recent report.

Measures for Safeguarding yourself from Air Pollution

While moving out of Delhi is not realistically possible for people who live and work here, there are measure that can be taken collectively and individually for a safer and cleaner air in thecapital.

  • Since this post analyses the effect of public transport on Delhi’s pollution levels, using the public transport system more for your daily commute becomes the starting point for all of us.
  • Travelling in closed vehicles such as the Delhi Metro, or AC buses of DTC will also reduce the amount of particulate matter you ingest through respiration.
  • Using protection masks while going outdoors will significantly reduce the damage to your health from airborne particulate matter.
  • Buying home air purifiers is another step that will help you in having a clean supply of air at home. International brands such as Honeywell also offer office air purifiers for covering larger carpet areas.Buying these air filtration products will not only make your workplace air cleaner but also enhance your productivity.
  • Modernize your kitchen with a chimney and exhaust fans to recycle the air inside your home regularly.

Hope for the future

Although the current scenario is a bit grim for city dwellers all over the world, the newer environment protection treaties and policies are a sign of positivity. The Indian Government remains at the forefront of countries promoting a switch to electronic vehicles, and is expected to release its hybrid vehicle policy soon. India is also an aggressive supporter of the Paris Climate Deal signed last year.

Therefore, we can hope to see a drastic change in the air quality of NCR and other major urban centers in the coming years. Till then, stay safe by investing in smart home technologies such as Air Purifiers, smart lighting, and modern kitchens.