With the smog in New Delhi reaching dangerous levels, many have been forced to wear masks and remain indoors for as long as possible. However, other metropolitan cities in the country aren’t bereft of their own struggles with pollution that has harmful effects on the human body. From halting crop burning to reducing the number of private cars on the road using an odd-even scheme, we ask social thinkers, urban planners and environmentalists on what more measures India could take to make the air cleaner and reduce the pollution in tier-I and tier-II cities, especially.
We get celebrities to give their take on a current issue each week and lend their perspective to a much-discussed topic. This week we talk about: Pollution
‘Managing tree cover is a solution’: Rishi Agarwal, environmental activist
The number one step is to invest in better public transport; this step needs to be taken regardless of it being a I or II tier city. The next issue we need to tackle is waste management. Citizens are asked to segregate their waste as dry or wet waste, but no tier I or tier II city is following any of these regulations. People just throw it out of their houses and are of the ‘out of sight, out of mind’ train of thought. Dust management is another important subject. It seems like the city is in love with dust — it is everywhere from the roads to shops and even inside houses!
One of the main sources of pollution in tier I cities is local burning pockets and using high amounts of fuel (even adulterated fuel). Managing tree cover is also a doable solution. Air is so very fundamental to us. But we are just making it bad for ourselves.
‘Cycles and electric cars must be promoted': Prakash P. Gopinath, cyclist and environmentalist
The government should make a policy to promote unconventional modes of transport like cycles and electric cars, which have less carbon footprint. Strict limitations must be imposed on volatile organic compounds (VOC), nitrogen oxides (NOx), solvent usage in power plants, industrial combustion sources and factories. India should switch over to solar power plants rather than the conventional coal and fossil fuel plants.
‘We generate tonnes of non-degradable waste and burn them’: Arun Krishnamurthy, Founder, Environment Foundation of India
We, as a nation, have not made an attempt to sensitise the common man on the need for his participation in combating pollution. We continue to generate tonnes of non-degradable waste and burn them indiscriminately. We continue to not reduce our fuel or private vehicle utilisation. We have to start demanding for infrastructure for pedestrians — be it for cycling or public transport. This problem requires holistic planning and execution. With improved civic awareness, there will be better results.
‘We should take inspiration from Singapore’: Shiv Kumar Chintapally, environment activist
When we talk about on what more measures India can take to make air cleaner and reduce pollution in tier I and tier II cities, the first thing the government should consider is to reduce vehicular density. The Odd-even scheme might work for some time but not in the long run. They can take inspiration from Singapore, where they are planning to reduce new vehicle registration drastically by 2020. This can be a way to reduce pollution apart from taking actual steps to curb the use of more than 10 years old diesel vehicles, which emits black smoke.
‘Odd even scheme won’t help in the long run’: Ankita Nayak, associate manager with the Advocacy department in Janaagraha
The viewpoint on systemic reforms is missing. So, the government’s response has been treating these issues with a band-aid approach. There’s a strong need to look at what are the current legislatures or the reforms available at a systematic level rather than giving it a one time approach. Having said that, whatever has been done so far to arrest the issue, like the odd-even scheme, feels like a good way to go about it so far. But this will be helpful only for current times, and not for the next 10 to 15 years.