Delhi Government has started a unique initiative to curb pollution in the national capital. At least, 2500 environment marshals will be present at 100 important crossings spread over all 14 districts to request drivers to switch off their cars while waiting at signals. The Delhi Government is hopeful that this ambitious plan will largely help the city to get rid of the winter smog which causes many respiratory diseases. Moreover, it will help to control the spread of Covid-19 during winter months by limiting air pollution as the virus affects the respiratory tract.
But, will this effort really be successful in significantly reducing pollution in Delhi ? Notwithstanding the enthusiasm shown by Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and Environment Minister Gopal Rai, it must be admitted that chances of making Delhi free from pollution is very slim by such cosmetic measures, such measures are insufficient. The authorities will have to take much sterner action to achieve the goal. Measures, such as ‘Red light on, Gaddi (Car) off’ as the new initiative is called, may attract the attention of the people, but it is not the medicine Delhi is looking for. At best, it can be termed as a mild medicine prescribed to a much more serious problem.
Till the early seventies, Delhi used to enjoy ideal weather and the word pollution was almost unheard of in the national capital. But the situation changed suddenly when Delhi started to expand. Virtually almost all empty spaces in Delhi vanished during this period. As the expansion of the city was largely unplanned, there was no public transport. So to avoid the difficulties in travelling to central Delhi, where all major and important facilities were available or any other part of the city, people started looking for their own means of transport. As a result, Delhi roads were swamped by vehicles. From four wheelers to two wheelers, every Delhi resident was seen driving self owned vehicles and that has resulted to the severe pollution levels of today.
So, in-order to make Delhi free from pollution, the first step should be to restrict the number of vehicles on it’s roads. At the same time, the government should undertake every possible arrangement to make public transport accessible and appealing. Even after having the largest metro network in the country, last mile connectivity is still a distant dream in Delhi. Furthermore, services of Delhi Transport Corporation (DTC) are currently very poor. The people are thus left with no other option but to own vehicles for their convenience. In absence of a proper public transport system, Delhi’s residents objected to the odd and even system with the argument that most people do not own two cars. At least twice, the Delhi government has tried to enforce the plan and both times it had to retreat after only a few days. It is clear that until and unless, the public transport system is strengthened in Delhi, the city will not get lasting respite from pollution.