Plan to tackle New Delhi smog seen as 'cosmetic'

NEW DELHI • India is devising a plan to combat smog in the capital New Delhi, the world's most polluted city, two officials said, but the government is stopping short of targeting the powerful transport industry.

Instead, the plan will call for enforcing bans on what some environmentalists regard as relatively minor sources of pollution, including the burning of garbage.

The World Health Organisation said last year that 13 of the world's 20 most polluted cities were in India, with New Delhi the worst.

In the absence of concerted government action on battling pollution, the courts have stepped in, banning the sale of luxury diesel vehicles and demanding a tax on trucks entering the city.

The federal plan, which the two officials said would be made public within two weeks, will be one of the government's first attempts to come up with a broad solution.

Under the plan, the government will enforce a ban on burning garbage and tyres in Delhi and its three surrounding states, and require that construction sites be covered with curtains, among other steps. The measures are "by and large" reiterations of older rules that have rarely been enforced, officials said.

Environmental activists said the moves were "cosmetic". "It's a piecemeal approach," said pollution campaigner B. Sengupta. "It will not drastically improve the air."

Experts said the city of 16 million needed a permanent ban on diesel cars, and other measures to reduce spiralling vehicle emissions.

On Wednesday, levels of PM 2.5, tiny particulate matter that reaches deep into the lungs, hit 500 in New Delhi, a level deemed "hazardous", data from the US Embassy's monitoring station showed.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 25, 2015, with the headline 'Plan to tackle New Delhi smog seen as 'cosmetic''. Print Edition | Subscribe