Air pollution: What Delhi can learn from Beijing

The Hindustan Times , Thursday, March 12, 2015
Correspondent : Chetan Chauhan
Once known as the world’s most polluted city, Beijing shed the dubious tag by showing political resolve and implementing innovate measures to provide its citizens cleaner air to breathe.

Delhi — which has now picked up the tag of being most polluted — can learn some lessons from its neighbour in bringing down pollution levels.

Beijing in a span of less than eight years reduced its air pollution by about four percent, reversing the trend of deteriorating air quality in the city, said Li Kunsheng, director of Emission Management Unit of Beijing Municipal Environmental Protection Unit. Li was speaking at the Centre for Science and Environment’s Anil Agarwal Dialogue on the poor in climate change.

What Beijing achieved should be an inspiration for Delhi as it has dual benefits of healthier residents and spurring economic growth, said Michael P. Walsh, a vehicle technology expert from United States.

As air pollution levels were high, the Beijing administration adopted a multi-pronged strategy from introducing cleaner fuel to phasing out older vehicles to putting restrictions on buying new vehicles and incentives for adopting electric vehicles.

Phasing out a personal car every day, the city capped the number of vehicles at six million, Kunsheng said, adding Euro V compliant fuel was introduced in 2013 to reduce toxic pollutants.

In comparison, there are over seven million vehicles in Delhi and introducing Euro V will take another eight years, by which time vehicles in Beijing will be running on Euro 7.

Kunsheng said six ring roads have been built around Beijing — Delhi has only two — for the smooth passage of vehicles. Only least polluting vehicles are allowed in the inner most ring roads. “We achieve this through a vehicle lab system based on vehicle’s emission level,” he added.

The city has about 300 pollution checking centres having powers to penalize drivers of polluting vehicles with a fine of up to US$300 (Rs 18,845). The administration also provides financial incentives to buy zero emission electric vehicles and now the city has about 1,000 electric buses.

On heavy air pollution days, the city administration issues advisories to citizens and clamps down on industries and vehicle movement. People are advised to take public transport.

Los Angeles was like Beijing and Delhi in 1948 with smog gripping the city almost every third day.

“The city would have seen highest air pollution witnessed ever by the human race. But we were able to reduce air pollution by over 90% in the last 40 years…Our target is to have a zero emission city by 2050,” said Bart E Croes of California Air Resources Board.

He said reducing air pollution cost a few hundred dollars per resident with just 0.5% impact on the gross domestic product. “Healthier population is also more productive,” he said.


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