Delhi, a bustling metropolis in India, grapples with an annual challenge – severe air pollution, exacerbated by factors like Diwali fireworks and stubble burning. As winter approaches, the city is preparing to tackle this environmental crisis head-on. Delhi’s Environment Minister, Gopal Rai, has recently announced the resurgence of the “Red Light On, Gaadi Off” initiative. Let’s explore why this initiative is so significant.
The “Red Light On, Gaadi Off” campaign encourages commuters to turn off their vehicle engines when they come to a stop at red traffic signals. This seemingly small action can have a significant impact on reducing emissions and curbing pollution, which is crucial for a city with a “very poor” air quality index (AQI).
Why should you care about this story? Delhi’s air quality takes a severe hit every winter due to two major factors. First, the bursting of Diwali fireworks and second, the practice of stubble burning. The colder weather and foggy conditions during this season trap particulate matter (PM), pushing the AQI to hazardous levels. In fact, in 2021, Delhi saw record-breaking AQI levels the day after Diwali.
The problem doesn’t end there. Delhi consistently ranks as one of the world’s most polluted cities. IQAir’s World Air Quality Report placed it fourth on the list of the most polluted cities globally. This situation demands immediate action.
While the odd-even vehicle restriction, a system where vehicles with license plates ending in odd numbers operate on odd dates and vice versa, is not currently under consideration, the government is reintroducing the “Red Light On, Gaadi Off” campaign. They are also exploring innovative solutions such as dust suppressant powder and mandating motorcyclists to update their Pollution Under Control (PUC) certificates.
The urgency is evident as Delhi’s air quality recently reached “very poor” for the first time since May, with an average AQI of 313. To combat pollution, the second stage of the Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP) has been initiated. Special teams are being deployed to assess local sources of pollution in identified hotspots. However, the absence of department secretaries in pollution-related meetings is a cause for concern.
The grim statistics continue when we look at AQI readings from various locations in Delhi. Anand Vihar recorded an AQI of 345, New Moti Bagh had a reading of 360, and near Delhi University, it was 330. The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) data reveals AQI figures for neighboring areas: Greater Noida (354), Noida (304), Ghaziabad (246), Gurugram (255), and Faridabad (322). These figures underline the pressing need for effective measures against pollution.
The Delhi government has taken another significant step by advocating for a blanket ban on firecrackers and diesel buses across the National Capital Region (NCR) during the winter season. This proposal was presented during a meeting with Union Environment Minister Bhupender Yadav and aligns with the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP)’s 15-point action plan to mitigate air pollution during the winter.