Friday, March 5, 2021

Deteriorating air quality

Findings of the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) that transport sector running on fossil fuels is a major cause of pollution in the air because of heavy dependence on road transport network for commuting and freight are not misplaced. The central and the state government have to take the findings on a serious note because CSE has been a premier non-government agency working in this field seriously for the past many decades since its inception and regularly carrying out research in this sector. Despite the fact that some of the government agencies have also been collaborating with CSE for carrying out studies in different sectors but the findings and recommendations thereon have never been implemented for initiating remedial measures to control air pollution through alternate ways and means of transport as rapid urbanization is putting huge pressure on the natural resources of the nation in one or the other. Rapid urbanization is also putting lot of pressure on water resources as dense population located in small pockets is also demanding other facilities at the cost of causing harm to the ecology and environment of the surrounding areas. Transport sector is the major contributor to polluting air which in turn is affecting the health of human population particularly the children. The carbon emissions continue to stay as a suspended particle at a level of less than five feet above the ground affecting the children’s health adversely. A lot of studies have been carried out for this purpose and it has been found that the steps taken by the governments and their agencies to check air quality in major urban towns. It has been found that the air quality has been the worst in major cosmopolitan cities and as such no remedial measures have been initiated to improve the air quality through a number of steps. The government and its agencies continue to operate on adhoc basis for providing succour to the people living in the cities. Subsidising diesel sale has also been one major factor for majority of the automobile companies opting for production of diesel run vehicles which are now crowding the urban centres as well as rural areas. Unfortunately, whole of the concept of providing commuter services to people in urban areas has been a challenging task for which no serious effort has been made except for some towns where non-polluting vehicles and clean energy has definitely made some difference in the air quality during the past two decades. For this purpose, New Delhi is an example but still a lot more needs to be done for improving the air quality. The idea of improving public transport system to discourage personalized vehicle ownership is yet to take roots in all the major towns. In fact, the automobile companies have been making all out attempts to sell more cars and two-wheelers instead of contributing to improvement in public commuter services. The Mass Transit System (MTS) has also not seen major headway in most parts of India. In making any headway in this sector, the government needs to seriously pursue public transport services in all the major cities and upcoming towns and simultaneously take up planning process for MTS and public transport system in all towns. In fact the planning process should start for all towns having half a million population so that the future plans are implemented well in time for meeting demands of the urban population in the next one or two decades. The master plans are also needed to be worked out at this stage. The private transport operators who are acting like mafia groups should be discouraged at this stage so that urban renewal programmes are implemented not only for meeting future requirements of the urban population but also start planning for upcoming towns through the process of strict regulation. Clean energy consumption in public transport system is the key to checking pollution of the fossil fuel run vehicles. The carbon emissions can also be controlled through alternate sources of energy generation when advanced technology is available for this purpose.