According to a recent study by an environmental watchdog, it appears that despite the Indian government's efforts to tackle pollution in the capital of New Delhi, harmful particulates are once again reaching levels before its CNG (compressed natural gas) program began in 2002.
The report issued by Delhi's Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) found that last winter, pollution increased for the first time since 2000 and that already this year levels are fast approaching what they were before the city's CNG program. Nitrous oxide (N2O) is also rising to hazardous levels.
The report comes at a time when the government has attempted measures to improve air quality and encourage public transportation. The inauguration of the Delhi Mass Rapid Transit System in 2002 and the launching of the Green Delhi afforestation campaign in 2004 to plant hundreds of thousands of native trees to absorb pollutants were both geared to reduce congestion and pollution.Recently, it also announced that it would add another 525 CNG-powered buses to the streets, with future plans to double the current fleet of CNG buses from 3,000 to 6,000.
Still, its best efforts have been hampered by a number of factors. One of them is the booming market in private car ownership. At this time, Delhi has about four million registered vehicles, with another 963 new personal vehicles entering the traffic stream every day. Early next year, India's giant auto maker Tata plans to release an affordable car priced at around $3,000 which will mean a heck of a lot more cars polluting the city's air.
Another frustrating fact is that infrastructure expansion is not being kept apace with the expanding number of vehicles. The cities of the National Capital Region are growing and need a comprehensive strategy to link them. The National Highway 8 or the Delhi-Gurgaon Road, designed to carry 160,000 vehicles by 2015, presently has a 130,000-strong cohort travelling its lanes.
To top it off, Delhi's roads are known to be quite dangerous, with "killer" buses making the headlines recently. Even its recent addition of CNG-buses falls short of the 10,000 once promised by the government back in 1998.
It is clear that even with these latest measures, the Indian government must do more to restrict the growth of Delhi's traffic. Sunita Narain, head of CSE, emphasizes: "We will have to take tough measures to control growing air pollution and fast. Otherwise, Delhi will find itself in the choked and toxic haze of the pre-CNG days, when diesel-driven buses and autos had made it one of the most polluted cities on earth."
::Green Car Congress
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