Op/Ed: 5 December 2016. Last week the Supreme Court directed the central government to notify its graded action plan to tackle air pollution in Delhi.
This is a significant moment in India’s battle for clean air, emphasising the need for a comprehensive plan presenting systemic solutions and reminding governments that a plan can be executed successfully only if all stakeholders work in tandem.
This template should also be adapted for other Indian cities that suffer appalling air quality. Air pollution extracts an enormous price in terms of health, particularly of children. Combating it must become a governance priority.
The Environment Pollution (Control and Prevention) Authority has presented the holistic plan to which the Centre now has to give statutory backing. This plan categorises pollution into four categories based on atmospheric particulate matter.
It then suggests a course of action for each category, with the most dangerous layer triggering an emergency protocol. The plan is not restricted to just the Centre and the state government of Delhi. Neighbouring states also have to play their parts as environmental problems always spill over borders.
The plan will have an economic cost, bringing out the trade-offs involved in mitigating the harmful impact of human activities on the environment.
To illustrate, if the air quality worsens to a level categorised as ‘severe’, the plan envisages closing down brick kilns and stone crushers. This should motivate governments and regulatory authorities to get the early stage execution right and thereby prevent economic disruption.
They should also search for long-term solutions which minimise economic costs. Enhanced investment in public transport, for instance, can mitigate the environmental fallout and also yield economic benefits.
Now that the situation is alarming, India’s fight against air pollution must assume a sense of urgency. Examples around the world, particularly Beijing in the recent past, show that air quality can improve if governments make it a priority.
It’s important to, in the first place, have accurate air quality measurements all across our cities to give us a real-time indication of the extent of the problem. Only that, in combination with trying out a variety of measures suggested by experts, can tell us what works and what doesn’t.
Given the stakes involved and the fact that environmental fallouts cannot be confined within state borders, all stakeholders must work together to improve air quality in India.
Disclaimer : Views expressed above are the author’s own.