Trucks banned from entering Delhi as pollution peaks show we prioritise lives in national capital

The air in Noida and other satellite towns that together form the national capital region is as poisonous as that in Delhi, if not more.

 |  4-minute read |   12-11-2018
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A day after Diwali, as pollution levels rose across most parts of north India, the Delhi government ordered a ban on the entry of trucks into the national capital. The ban, which came into effect from 11pm of November 8, and was to stay till 11pm of November 11, has now been extended by a day — November 12 — after the air quality was found to have remained in the ‘severe’ category.

trucks-690_111218025209.jpgTraucks have been banned from entering Delhi since November 8. (Source: Reuters/Photo for representation only)

As a result of the ban, hundreds of trucks are now stranded in Noida, all waiting to enter Delhi.

The government would have us believe that trucks stopped at the Delhi border do not pollute the national capital, but it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to understand that trucks that made it to the border have already polluted the capital city’s ambient air.

However, a more important point that is being overlooked in this hurry to show that the government is serious about fighting pollution is that pollution is not a Delhi-specific problem. The air in Noida and other satellite towns that together form the national capital region is as poisonous as that in Delhi, if not more.

Average pollution: November 11

aqi_111218030356.jpg

Noida and Ghaziabad did not see a single ‘good’ air day between November 2017 and March 2018 — a full five months, according to data released by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB).

Data also showed that the air quality in these two cities was the worst among all seven cities in the NCR — Delhi, Gurgaon, Faridabad, Alwar, Bhiwadi, Noida and Ghaziabad.

People in many other cities too are breathing poisonous air.  

Delhi is the country’s capital and hence enjoys a privilege when it comes to prioritising resource allocation and amenity distribution. But should this also mean we add an extra premium to the lives of the residents of Delhi?

On October 31, the Supreme Court of India said that while Delhi-NCR were supposed to use only ‘green crackers’, the crackers already manufactured could be sold in other parts of the country.

Crackers pollute the air no matter where you burst them. So, why is it okay for the more polluting ones to be burst outside the national capital region?

cracker-690_111218030706.jpgThe partial craker ban imposed by the Supreme Court allowed polluting firecrackers to be sold outside the national capital region. (Source: India Today)

Are we not implying that certain lives need more care than others?

In 2016, Kanpur emerged as the world’s most polluted city in the world, according to a report of the World Health Organisation.

The Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) names Mumbai, Bengaluru, Kolkata, and Hyderabad among polluted cities, with Delhi topping the list.

This clearly means that pollution is a pan-India problem.

India, clearly, has no long-term plans to tackle pollution and hence when pollution peaks right at the onset of winters, the political leadership is caught indulging in token measures to show it means business.

But the trucks stranded in Noida are now posing a bigger problem of traffic chaos — both by just remaining stranded and by the possibility of being allowed to move once the ban is lifted. Traffic congestions lead to more vehicular pollution.

The trucks so far did not lead to a serious traffic chaos because fewer vehicles were on the roads owing to the festive season. But as schools and offices reopened on November 12, commuters are likely to be met with long snarls.

The trucks have been stopped at the exit point of DND flyover and are parked on either side of the Noida-Greater Noida Expressway.

truckk-690_111218030843.jpgIndia is still contemplating how to phase out highly polluting commercial vehicles. (Source: AP/Photo for representation only)

In a report, The Times of India quoted environmentalists as saying that Noida has been experiencing severe pollution levels in the recent past and the trucks shouldn’t have been allowed to enter Noida in the first place.

In March, Minister of Road Transport and Highways of India Nitin Gadkari said that old commercial vehicles were responsible for 65 per cent of the vehicular pollution.

But the policy to phase out commercial vehicles older than 20 years is still about two years away from kicking in. Once the policy gets cabinet nod, all commercial vehicles that are more than two-decade old will be taken off road from April 1, 2020.

Till then we will have to keep debating over where to park them every time the air quality starts to choke us.

According to reports, India has over 700,000 commercial vehicles that were registered before December 31, 2000. The terms of what concessions should be given to buyers of new vehicles are still being debated.

Quite obviously we have got both our priorities and policies wrong.

Also read: Air pollution is hurting us. But while threatening private car usage, why are we overlooking the bikes that contribute the most?

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