Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Simple Suggestions to Reduce Delhi's Pollution

(c) 2015 Economic Times

Delhi's pollution is killing us slowly. We all know it. We feel it. In many places in Delhi, we literally see it. Pollution has a dangerous form and substance. And yet, any suggestions to reduce pollution levels is met with loud cries on why and how it will fail. Equally loud is the silence of the same vocal detractors with alternate solutions.

From my simplistic point-of-view, the Delhi Government and its citizens, need to do much much more. Here is my list of things that can be done. 

Is anyone listening?

  1. The car odd/even rationing should cover all private vehicles including scooters and motorbikes. It should cover all government vehicles whether state or central government. The only VIPs allowed to drive on any day are the president and prime minister.  That's it. No one else.
  2. Keep exclusions low. If women are excluded from the restriction, let the restriction removal enable women to car pool with other women or men.   
  3. Ban the sale of all diesel vehicles (public / private) till whenever we have “greener” diesel available in the city. Retire any diesel cars that are older than 10 years.
  4. Convert government diesel vehicles to CNG vehicles, if possible & as fast as possible. 
  5. Put Delhi bypass highway construction and opening on critical path, so that trucks bypass the city. 
  6. Ban the burning of leaves and refuse in the city. Challan heavily all violations. If the burning happens in a gated community and the perpetrator can not be identified, then the community is charged.
  7. Ban the sale and lighting of crackers for any occasion whether it is for Diwali or Christmas or a wedding or when India wins a cricket match. 
  8. Ban / restrict construction in the city in the months where pollution is the highest historically – Nov, Dec, Jan. Or demand that all construction and material be covered so that concrete, cement, wood, stone, silica and sand dust are not blown into the atmosphere.
  9. Fix roads to enable smooth flow of traffic. Potholes slow down traffic. Any construction or digging for water / electricity cables need to be done at non traffic times and trenches created must be filled and re-tared immediately, else the contract work shall not be deemed as completed. 
  10. On roads where there are shrines or depots that restrict traffic flow – move these elsewhere or push them back from the road to remove congestion on roads
  11. Ban processions on roads for weddings / religious ceremonies – these hamper traffic flow.
  12. Green Delhi - Large scale planting of trees. For e.g. Every MCD parking lot must have x number of trees planted in a 60-day time frame (base this in square foot area). And this green cover needs to be maintained.
  13. Increase dramatically public transport capacity – metro coaches, buses, etc
  14. Encourage private companies to start shuttle services / carpooling (maybe even incentivize them)
  15. Give companies a break in corporate tax (or something like that) if they have at least 20% of their workforce working from home.
  16. Stagger office timings based on office location. For example, all offices in Central Delhi (CP) must start at 8am and end at 4:30pm. Then the next concentric circle starts at 8:30am and ends at 5 pm and so on.
  17. Define clearly emergency personnel and services and situations that are exempt, such as having to drive a pregnant woman to hospital or fire and police services. 
  18. Let the police monitor adherence at major choke points so that they are not spread thin. The police can randomly change locations to cover larger areas.
  19. Ensure that autos are parked properly without restricting traffic such as at metro stations. The auto queue is so maintained that the next available auto has to go where the passenger needs to go. There is no choice.
  20. Ensure that cabs and autos can not and do not charge any surge pricing.  This holds for OLA and Uber and the black and yellow taxis and autos of all types. Set up a control room where the driver's photo and plate number can be sent to a control room. More than 3 violations are dealt with strictly.
  21. Create citizen police support teams to help police manage the additional work. So people from civil society volunteer to work with police personnel to monitor adherence to new rules. This will enable us to have more places monitored. Leverage college students, retirees, those who do not have jobs, etc.
  22. Run massive communication campaigns that build pride in being an eco-friendly person. Such as badges for being a 365 day car-pooler, or some such thing.
  23. Encourage schools to become car-free. Children commute to and from school  only on school buses and parents are actively discouraged from using their cars.

All I ask is that we do whatever is needed to reduce pollution, however difficult it may seem.

Lets give it an honest try before rejecting it. 

For the alternative is death. A slow death. On a massive scale.

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