Untamed Motorization Wraps Dehli in Smog

How quickly things can change. Dehli used to have reasonable air quality when they were addressing these issues with smaller non-motorized populations. Dehli is now 20 million with a rapidly growing use of automobiles with the rising incomes. A decade ago , Dehli had introduced a range of emission controls, closing polluting industries and expanding green spaces. Moreover the city’s buses and popular 3 wheeled transport vehicles were converted to compressed natural gas. For a time air quality even improved. Now Dehli can sport an arid blanket of grey smog. What happened?

The Executive Director of the Center for Science and Environment indicates that Dehli has already plucked the low-hanging fruits and “ Now its time for aggressive, second-generation reforms”. The rising numbers of vehicles in Dehli must be slowed as each day 1,400 new vehicles hit the city roads, already home to over 7 million registered vehicles, a 65% rise from 2003. As a result, fine particle pollution has risen by 47% in the last decade. Nitrogen dioxide levels have increased by 57%.

Environmentalists recommend a hefty tax on diesel vehicles, a steep rise in parking fees and a rapid upgrade in public ensuremore timely bus service and better integration of buses and metro rail systems. These systems can be implemented and will have a major benefit in reducing the number of vehicles in Dehli, according to the Executive Director. But Government officials note that Dehli is benefiting from rising incomes and is suffering from its landlocked geography and will likely have to face a higher environmental costs as compared with Mumbia, Kolkata and Chennai, even with these measures. No doubt those officials are correct.


See: Niharika Mandhana, ‘Untamed Motorization’ Wraps an Indian City in Smog, New York Times, December 27, 2012.