Talk about initiatives like car-free day and the proposed odd-even formula, but rising air pollution levels in Gurgaon city are continuously leaving several people’s lungs affected.
Gurgaon, one of the most prominent cities in the NCR, needs strong measures as its air quality is worsening every day, and congestion and traffic gridlock has turned it in to a commuters’ and residents’ nightmare.
The quality of air in the millennium city has deteriorated owing to the huge volume of vehicular movement and large number of industrial units that release toxic effluents in to the air leading to a variety of respiration-related ailments. The recent pollution levels in the city have been reported to be much higher than the acceptable limits, sometimes as high as 35 times the normal limits.
More so, every year, stubble burning around this area leads to an increase in respiratory diseases in the month of April. According to doctors, asthma and other respiratory diseases are triggered during this time of the year mainly due to the worsening air pollution caused by the illegal practice of burning paddy stubble. The city’s top three private hospitals witness an increase of about 20% to 30% in the number of such cases in April after Baisakhi.
If data released by the Haryana State Pollution Control Board (HSPCB) is to be believed, PM2.5 has increased by 20 notches in the last 15 days. While the maximum level of PM2.5 was recorded at 101.37 ug/m3 on April 1, it was recorded at 131 ug/m3 on Friday. The level of sulphur oxides has also increased from about 41ug/m3 to 56 ug/m3 in the last 15 days.
Air pollution challenge faced by Gurgaon
Gurgaon has delayed setting up of an adequate air quality monitoring grid. As a result, extremely limited pollution data is available for the city from only one monitoring station housed in the office of the State Pollution Control Board, which is also not the most representative site for the city.
Gurgaon’s civil hospital, in turn, is generally frequented by patients belonging to the lower income group and labourers for respiratory problem, the situation in people of the elite class is not different. The health impact studies show that it is linked with a wide range of health outcomes including respiratory, cardiopulmonary disease, stroke, blood pressure, diabetes, cancer among others.
Why Gurgaon is in grip of Air pollution?
Here are the reasons:
High Vehicle Ownership
Gurgaon has the highest vehicle ownership in the country. Surprisingly, it’s even higher than Delhi and Chandigarh that are known to have highest per capita income. Vehicular emissions add to pollution concentration in our breath, which is about 3-4 times higher than the ambient air concentration. According to the census data, Gurgaon has 232 cars and two-wheelers per 1,000 people, Chandigarh has 172 cars and two-wheelers per 1,000 people, and Delhi has 120 cars and two-wheelers per 1,000.
High rate of motorization
Though the size of the city and the length of the road network of Gurgaon is much less than Delhi’s, the vehicle density is much higher. This means road availability per 1,000 vehicles is much lower than in Delhi.
More & bigger cars incite fuel guzzling
With high per capita car ownership, there is also a risk to energy insecurity and high emissions of heat trapping carbon-dioxide. Not only the number of cars is increasing, the markets are also shifting steadily towards bigger cars whereas Gurgaon doesn’t have the fuel efficiency measures and standards to conserve fuel.
Overall diesel consumption has increased in the country and in the NCR. Lure of cheaper diesel, long distance travel are pushing up demand for diesel cars and SUVs. Freight transport is also adding to that risk as India does not have clean diesel. Diesel emissions are classified as class I carcinogen putting it in the same class as tobacco, for its strong link with lung cancer. NCR needs active policy to control dieselization and leapfrog to Euro VI emissions standards.
Decline in public transport ridership
In 2004 personal transport trips were 39 per cent that increased to as much as 60 per cent in 2010. The share of public transport, walk and cycle has dropped from 58 per cent to 40 per cent. Bus numbers have not increased appreciably and bus infrastructure has not expanded.
Poor Public transport penetration
Gurgaon has a metro line and it has also started to increase its bus numbers. But overall the urban design of the city is not conducive to enable deeper penetration of public transport system into neighbourhoods. Poor last mile connectivity and lack of integrated design for public transport and impedes easy access to public transport system.
Non usage of cycles
Short travel distances in the city make this city walkable and cycle friendly. Yet this strength is not being nurtured. More than 45 per cent of trips are between 0-2 kms & maximum daily trips are less than 5 kilometers. The maximum trip lengths are covered by buses but due to their less availability, people have to depend on personal modes.
Only more roads is not the answer
Delhi has not been able to solve its problem of pollution and congestion by building more roads and flyovers for cars. Gurgaon must not repeat the mistakes of Delhi. In Delhi, bus ridership has dropped from 60 per cent in 2000 to 40 per cent now while its Master Plan has set a target of 80 per cent of public transport ridership by 2020. Traffic jams lead to fuel wastage, more pollution and serious economic losses.
Personal vehicles demand enormous land area for parking. In Gurgaon, current registration of cars creates demand for land for parking equal to 179 football fields. Key locations like Cyber Park, Huda Shopping Complex, Fountain Chowk, Vishwakarma Road, MG Road etc show that 80 to 90 per cent of vehicles in the parking areas are cars and two-wheelers. Only in some areas autos that are part of intermediate public transport, have substantial presence. Personal vehicles are therefore making enormous pressure not only on road space but also on public spaces.
Farm fires in the NCR
Make paddy straw burning an offence in the region. Need stringent enforcement under the Air Act 1980 to ban farm fires. This needs be enabled with incentive and subsidy for innovative farming methods that allow mixing of the straw with the soil to act as fertilizer and avoid stubble burning; Promote alternative uses of paddy straw for power generation.
Never Ending Construction
With the Projects by Developers, Construction of New Flyovers around National Highway 8 and huge number of Residential projects all across Guragaon… Containing Dust becomes a challenge