This article outlines some of the ways which could be taken into consideration while thinking about the air pollution crisis in Delhi. The article does not give all possible ways but it does give some and I expect others adding more to the list so that if anybody working in this direction can make use of it. While writing this, I have tried to mention why people do what they do and how they can find solutions. I have divided the article in four different sections based on different sources of pollution.
1. Why would a person want to go to office in a car even though it is costly and there is a wonderful metro rail network in the city? Could the answer be heavily overcrowded metros and buses? Could the uncomfortable standing posture, pulling and pushing, misbehaviour, groping, pickpockets, etc. be the reasons behind a person not opting for public transport? This is mostly during the peak hours (office commuting hours), the rest of the times the metro/bus frequency is quite low and the crowd is also quite less. Can the peak hours be diluted? Would it improve the efficiency and utilization of the transport system if there is uniform traffic throughout the day? What if office timings are flexible? Or there are three or four different start and end times? What if instead of everyone trying the reach the office at 9:00 am, employees choose/or get assigned different times starting from 6 or 7 till noon or so? (Remember more than 30,000 people die every year in Delhi because of air pollution, it is better to change the schedule rather than die)
2. Once the traffic is uniform, the new public transport requirement can be identified. Further, instead of procuring regular-sized buses, why can’t high capacity buses like double-deckers and bi-articulated buses be procured? They could be used on different routes according to the number of people traveling.
3. Instead of traffic lights which are far too many, there should be more roundabouts at least on the new roads that are being built. A vehicle creates pollution when the engine is on. Turning off the engine while waiting at a traffic light might also help.
4. Electric Vehicles (E-Buses, E-Cars, E-bikes) are a nice alternative, but the government should build charging stations as well.
5. A lot of private companies provide cab services but do all of them provide this service to their employees? and at all the times? And what about the government and its employees, do they have this service from their employer? Can there be private vendors who provide those services? It sounds like a startup opportunity, although it is not a new concept but it is still not popular.
6. Why don’t people use bicycles? There could be many reasons, maybe because bicycle riders don’t feel safe enough, missing bike lanes or maybe the people think they are rich and their class comes in between. Use a bike to commute to the office. If you go to the gym, you only have to do weight training there no cardio, cardio for the day is done. People who go to the gym for cardio will save time and money both. For safety issues – obviously bike lanes were the best approach, but since they are not there, alternatives will have to be thought of. Is it possible to plot a map of Delhi with bicycle only streets i.e. there could be streets which have alternative routes or some parallel route running? It won’t hinder the accessibility of different destinations if one of the routs becomes a cycle only street.
There should be cycle zones, for instances around the school premises, university campuses, maybe even Connaught Place. Yes, the exceptions would always be there like ambulances, service vehicles etc.
Bicycle promoting activities like bike marathons etc. should be organized regularly. This would also help in spreading awareness and engage people.
7. Once all the other provisions are in place, the petrol and diesel prices should be increased. Some of the most of the developed countries have high prices. In Germany, it was 1.26 euros (approx INR 100) per litre. High fuel price would act as a deterrent and a motivation to use the above-mentioned tactics.
8. Just a thought! Could the Yamuna be used as a transportation medium? If not for passengers could it at least be used for goods transportation?
1. Even though waste can be recycled, I see a lot of people burning used bottles and other things. What if there is a refund on the bottles? For example, a beverage costs ₹50 and is sold in a plastic bottle. In order to make sure that people do not throw them here and there which are later found burning somewhere, add a cost to the bottle as well. Let’s say the plastic bottle in itself costs ₹10. The total price of the beverage becomes ₹60. Once a person returns the bottle, they get a refund of ₹10. Nobody loses anything and trust me, you will not find even a single bottle lying anywhere. Instead, even if there is a bottle lying around somewhere, somebody would take it and get the refund. Killing two birds with one stone, cleanliness, and no burning.
2. Some poor households use solid fuel for cooking still after 70 years of independence. LPGs/PNGs are the solutions, the Indian government is taking care of this already.
3. Thermal power plants should be taken out of operation as soon as possible, they should be replaced with solar power plants. Moreover, all the commercial buildings, complexes, offices, schools, universities should have a solar panel. If people in their homes install solar panels, they might actually be relieved of high electricity bills. Initial investment and then saving.
4. Crop residue burning turned out to be a big contributor in Delhi’s Pollution crisis recently. Apart from other uses of crop residue, it could be used to manufacture ethanol and later use this ethanol as a fuel. It looks like a startup opportunity, doesn’t it? A startup getting residue from different farmers and selling ethanol as a fuel.
Further, if the Delhi government had done this already, they could have scored a strong point among the farmers. Maybe, instead of losing so many deposits, they might have actually won a few elections
5. Just a thought! In case burning cannot be avoided. Is it possible to burn without smoke or with very little smoke or at least with very little particulate matter or with minimum Carbon Monoxide (CO) generated in the process? Can there be standard incinerator designed which fulfil these requirements? It looks like another startup opportunity.
1. I heard that Delhi Government was facing problems while procuring road vacuum cleaners. Question! Is it possible for in-house vacuum cleaner manufacturing? It looks like a startup opportunity, doesn’t it? Or at least government could release a tender and invite different people/groups.
2. Do studded tyres contribute to road dust? Are the tyres checked while PUC certification is done? They do contribute to pollution but I don’t think they are included in PUC Certification.
3. The loose soil on footpaths or dividers also contributes to road dust. Either those areas should be concrete (not the best idea) or should have grass transplanted (a better approach). Grass sods or turfs could be used to plant grass quickly.
4. Since India is a developing country so there is going to be a lot of construction all around the year. It is a positive aspect and there should be even more construction and infrastructure needs to be improved but all the construction sites need to be covered. In the last four years, I have rarely seen a construction site in Germany which was not covered. Huge nets are used to cover the buildings here, they could be manufactured in-house in India as well.
The above methods are proactive approaches to pollution i.e. the ways to avoid creating pollution in the first place. Air purifiers are a reactive approach to tackle pollution. Again, with filters, there is a scope for improvement. Instead of personal air purifiers or masks, is it possible to create commercial scaled-up in size air purifiers? The government invests so much in ads, hoardings, etc., is it possible that a filter is shaped as a large hoarding powered by a solar panel displaying ads? It might look weird now, but somebody must do the feasibility analysis. If it comes out to be feasible, it may be a successful startup.
The government has the authority that does not mean that it can’t work as a team. Instead of complaining that there are different factories who dump waste or pollute the air and continue doing so, the govt could actually help them. They could release tenders inviting small companies to build solutions in waste treatments for the different factories and later bill them. It is not that India is short of manpower, or people don’t need jobs. It is just that the government runs away from the responsibility and finds it easy to blame others. If people would be able to do everything by themselves and in the best possible way, then why would they need the government at all? The government could release a number of research projects, thesis topics for different students covering these subjects.
Students are not only for politics, they can do some other things as well. In-house manufacturing of equipment would help in solving a lot of India’s problems. I do not even vaguely wish to imply that the ideas mentioned here are the only ideas and that they would work 100%, but they are ideas. The concerned authorities will have to analyze and do the feasibility analysis. The problems in my developing country are not actually problems but they are opportunities, people need to change their approach. Had it not been for politics, pollution in Delhi could have been taken care of by now.