Delhi needs a focused approach to deal with the air pollution crisis

It has reached a point when healthy practices like jogging in the morning, playing football or cycling has become hazardous in the national capital as the doctors warn that outdoor fitness activities pose a grave risk to the health of citizenery because Delhi’s air has turned viciously poisonous.

Some schools have suspended sports, and there is a call to postpone the annual half marathon and cycling competitions.

Earlier this week the Air Quality Index in Delhi hit 300 when 50 is considered normal. It prompted Indian Medical Association (IMA) to issue an alert calling for emergency measures.

The issue, however, is not about the deteriorating quality of air but utter failure of the authorities to take corrective action. It has been well established that Delhi’s air become unbreathable particularly this time of the year and yet there is no comprehensive plan in place to deal with the crisis. The reactions have been impulsive and the results are always doubtful.

The Supreme Court banned sale of firecrackers on Diwali but that had little impact  on containing pollution.

The factors that make air toxic have been pointed out by experts and the apex court has ordered a crackdown, yet little has moved on the ground because of lack of vision and helplessness of administration.

Even if burning of paddy crop residue in the fields in Punjab and Haryana, identified as major contributor of air pollution, has been banned, the absence of any alternative to the farmers has rendered  the prohibitory order meaningless.

The Delhi government’s emergency response in the form of odd-even scheme of private car usage has proved to be nothing short of knee-jerk event.

The city needs a focused approach to deal with the crisis which aggravates in winter though quality of air remains bad all throughout the year.

There is no dearth of reports quantifying the horror and the doctors have painted a reasonably grim picture, though there seems to be no panacea for the  problem.

The public transport system, despite the efficient Delhi Metro, has failed to keep pace with the ever growing requirements of the city. The expansion of alternative modes of transport running on clean fuel has been tardy.

These might be the long term measures but the targets that can be easily achieved like regulating  construction activities or  controlling sale of vehicles  met.

Extreme situations have to be dealt with extreme measures. There seems to be a lack of acceptance that rising air pollution is an emergency despite the studies showing it can lead not only to lung cancer but also a whole lot of life threatening complications.

Any strategy to deal with the issue should not focus on the current crisis but the overall issue so that the city is prepared better for the next year and years to come.