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Smog at New Delhi Rail Station Image: Sumita Roy Dutta, Wikimedia CC
by Julia Fine, ODP Contributing Writer
New Delhi officials have “introduced an antipollution campaign in an attempt to curb air pollution ahead of winter, when the city is regularly covered in toxic haze,” the Associated Press reported this week. The city of 21 million people New Delhi has some of the worst air quality in the world as a high level of air pollution, with winters as “time of health woes, when the city is covered with a toxic haze that obscures the sky and blocks sunlight.”
Winter Woes: Why is winter the worst time for pollution in New Delhi? As AP writes, “Pollution levels soar as farmers in neighboring agricultural regions set fires to clear their land after harvests and to prepare for the next crop season.” Other reasons for the wintertime rise in pollution include emissions, firecrackers, and construction dust.
According to the AP, this isn’t New Delhi’s first rodeo. Indeed, it has “experimented with limiting the number of cars on the road, deployed large anti-smog guns and halted construction activity.” But these efforts have largely failed given the lack of cooperation from adjacent states.
The current plan has already been criticized by some, including an editorial in the Hindustan Times. As the Times wrote, “The Delhi government’s steps are much needed…However, promises are not enough. Delhi and other states need to implement their policies and strengthen monitoring systems.”
This isn’t the only step India is taking as its “green focus grows.” As Rajesh Kumar Singh reported for Bloomberg, the country is “considering a proposal that may force some of its dirtiest coal plants to close.”
Exacerbating the Pandemic: This wintertime pollution could potentially further the already devastating effects of the global pandemic in India. As Channel News Asia reported, New Delhi has “285,103 confirmed cases of the coronavirus, including 5,510 deaths.” As a disease that effects, in part, the respiratory system, COVID-19 impacts are also linked to air pollution.
As the Biden administration is readying a reversal of the Trump policies loosening rules on auto emissions, many states have started tightening their laws to align with the California clean car standards. Case in point: the Virginia legislature last week passed a law that toughened its emissions standards.
Gas flaring was responsible for Texas’s recent increase in oil refinery pollution, but it’s hardly a new problem. We’re less than a decade away from the UN’s goal of Zero Routine Flaring by 2030, but refineries still flare 150 billion cubic meters of natural gas each year, releasing 400 million tons of greenhouse gasses and other pollutants into the atmosphere.
Why This Matters: Companies have historically practiced gas flaring as a convenient and inexpensive way to “dispose of ” gas that was extracted alongside oil, as opposed to storing paying to store it.
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