Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal’s constructive measures to curb air pollution in Delhi has proven to be prolific. People of Delhi after being agonized and excruciated for many years finally saw a 25% reduction in air pollution.
An elected government is accountable for all aspects of the lives in a state. Health is an important factor and that’s where AAP has been most focused. Apart from Mohalla Clinics and Medical Schemes, AAP undertook multiple efforts to help the city curb the menace of air pollution. While some were underwhelming, others have flourished with quick results. Consequently, the Arvind Kejriwal-led AAP government have been successful in improving the quality of life in Delhi as air pollution levels were reduced by 25% in three years.
Turning a hopeless situation into a Breathable one: How AAP achieved the impossible?
Deteriorating air quality in the National Capital has threatened lives. It has become the leading cause of lung ailments and chronic respiratory diseases. AAP has prioritized improving the city’s air quality through multiple efforts.
According to WHO (World Health Organization) survey in 2014, Delhi stands to be the worst polluted city in the world out of 1600 major world cities.
The effects have been such that almost 2.2 million children have irreversible lung damage due to air pollution. Further effects include lower capabilities of the immune system, and an increased risk of diabetes, cancer, epilepsy, and multiple sclerosis.
How Kejriwal and AAP made reducing Delhi’s Air Pollution a part of their core agenda?
When Kejriwal Government came to power in 2015, the capital was in a dire situation. The AAP government made curbing the poor air quality problem a focal agenda. Since then, the state government with the help of center has taken many measures to curb the menace.
And then came a fateful day in November 2017, when the city became a ‘gas chamber’ right after the festival of Diwali. But that was to be the high point of the poisonous trajectory of Delhi’s air. The state government amplified its efforts and the center came into the action.
Consequently, recent reports have cited a sharp dip in pollutants in Delhi’s air. Today it stands at 25% less than what it was before Arvind Kejriwal-led AAP came into power.
What had caused Delhi’s worsening air problem?
Two components affect severe air pollution, i.e. PM 2.5 and PM 10. These are the fine particulate matters (PM) that cause health like irritation in eyes, nose, throat, lungs, coughing, and shortness of breath. Moreover, these also reduce visibility and cause road accidents.
PM 2.5 contributes 41% of air pollution in Delhi mostly by vehicular emissions
According to a report by the Ministry of Earth and Sciences, PM 2.5 contributes 41% of air pollution in Delhi mostly by vehicular emissions. Similarly, 21.5% from dust particles (includes the construction activity) and 18% through different industries (including thermal power plant).
The data by Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) shows a reduction in particulate matters by 25% over a period of four years after being suffering and agonized for many years and earning a title of “gas chamber”.
So how did AAP improve the air quality in Delhi?
1) Reduction in use of Diesel generators
In 2014, 11.7 crore units of the power cut were observed by Delhi, but Kejriwal government worked hard to enhance the supply of power. Consequently, the number was reduced to 1.7 crore units in 2018.
This also includes supplying of 24×7 electricity to unauthorized colonies which had to rely on diesel generators before. Why this is significant? Because a two-hour power cut in the National Capital results in diesel generators releasing 1 ton of particulate matter (PM) alone.
2) Shutting down of two thermal plants
The two coal-based thermal power plants, Badarpur and Rajghat, emitted harmful gases adding to the air pollution in Delhi. Both were shut down in recent years.
The Supreme Court-appointed EPCA (Environment Pollution Control Authority) in 2017 ordered the Badarpur Power plant to be permanently shut down. This plant was deemed inefficient and worse performing than most plants in terms of efficiency and emission. Its closing helped curb air pollution in the national capital.
AAP government started converting Rajghat Thermal power plant land into a solar park which can produce 5,000KW of solar power
On the other hand, in July 2019, Kejriwal led the Delhi government’s efforts to curb air pollution by deciding to shut down the Rajghat Thermal power plant. The 45 acres of land will be converted into a solar park which can produce 5,000KW of solar energy for Delhi’s power needs. The government has already started the task of generating power through the Rajghat plant.
3) Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP) initiative
This measure can be totally credited to the central government. It is a roadmap for an action plan for the state government of Delhi and NCR to follow. The action plan deals with times when the air quality is severe for 48 consecutive hours.
The measures include halting or banning of all construction activity and ban on trucks entering the city. It specifies the role of different agencies working under the pollution control agenda (CPCB) and makes them accountable.
4) The building of Eastern and Western Peripheral Expressways
The initial efforts saw a lot of tussle and disagreement between the Delhi government and the Center. However, Delhi CM Kejriwal lauded and thanked the central government for playing a significant role in building Eastern and Western expressways, which helped in reduction of Delhi’s air pollution.
These expressways have reduced the trucks entering Delhi by 30%, which lowered down the pollution level by 7%.
Along with the expressways, environment compensation charges were also levied on trucks that enter Delhi. This has proved another deterrent for many drivers.
5) Other measures
Stringent fines levied on open burning of piles of leaves during the autumn season was another small measure. Similarly, enforcing drives to follow up bans, odd-even scheme, and strictly following the GRAP scheme also contributed to the cause.
Furthermore, the launch of a “Mega Plantation Drive” by the Kejriwal government to plant saplings in 2018 is also a significant factor in the reduction of Delhi’s air pollution.
The Kejriwal Government is also determined to increase the forest cover of Delhi which will inadvertently reduce the carbon content in the atmosphere. The state government is also looking forward to drafting a policy whereby 25% of all new vehicles will be electric vehicles by 2023.
Furthermore, the Delhi Government also initiated talks with the governments of Punjab, Haryana and UP to tackle the burning of crop residue which also heavily factors in a sharp rise in Delhi’s pollution during the months of October and May.
While all these factors have contributed to the remarkable achievement for the AAP government, there’s still much work to be done to ensure the dip is sustained. The coming months of October and November will be key in this regard. That said, the sustained efforts from Arvind Kejriwal government is undoubtedly a case study on policy effectiveness and government efforts to tackle issues of a state.