Given Delhi is the most polluted metropolis in the world, the Arvind Kejriwalgovernment proposing 26 new programmes to clean up the National Capital Territory’s air in its recent Budget is a welcome move. Some of the moves included an addition of 1,000 new fully electric buses to the state-owned transporter’s fleet, further subsidies for electric vehicles, incentives for restaurants and eating joints to replace coal-burning ovens with electric or gas-powered ovens, LED street lamps, and incentive for residential and agricultural users that install solar panels for generation. All of the initiatives the Kejriwal government is proposing are well-meaning, and they will definitely have an important bearing on lessening pollution in the national capital. However, the real test of the initiatives will be to what degree and how effectively these measures tackle the megacity’s pollution.
While the Delhi Transport Corporation needs to maintain a fleet size of 11,000 buses, it has nearly 6,000. An addition of 1,000 new electric buses may mean lesser emissions, but it does little to address the overall supply gap, which means more private cars and other vehicles on the street and consequently a greater dose of pollution. At the same time, multiple studies have indicated the primary sources of pollution vary seasonally, and while, in winter, it is the crop burning in neighbouring Uttar Pradesh, Punjab and Haryana that affects Delhi’s air quality, in summer, it is dust from construction, etc. Tackling both of these problems will need coordination between different states bordering the national capital, and also with the Union government. Several collaborations with international bodies to improve scientific and technical expertise of the institutions that are actively involved in regulating air pollution were also announced in the Budget; however, until crop burning and road dust are not tackled effectively, the gains from addressing vehicular pollution, etc, will get undermined.