NEW DELHI, India — Although Beijing may have been attracting attention this week with its disturbingly high air-pollution levels, conditions are worse in New Delhi, The New York Times reports.
On Thursday, 2.5 particulates in the air were measured at over 400 micrograms per cubic meter around New Delhi versus 172 micrograms per cubic meter in Beijing. The US Environmental Protection Agency classifies levels higher than 300 micrograms per cubic meter as “hazardous.”
Bejing instituted emergency measures on Wednesday to bring the city’s pollution levels down, including banning cars from roads and ordering factories to shut down.
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Unlike Beijing, New Delhi’s government has not responded to their blast of toxic smog with any emergency actions.
However, the Department of Environment has been crafting a new air quality improvement action plan for the past year, India’s Financial Express reported. Officials told the Financial Express that the plan should be finalized in about a month and will be sent to India’s Cabinet for approval.
Some of the ideas in the anti-pollution proposal include stricter regulations for builders, annual inspections of private vehicles and higher parking fees in the city.
“We want strict repercussions, fines and prosecution," Environment Department director Anil Kumar told the Financial Express. "Anybody can pay 20 rupees for parking, but if the rates are increased to 100 or 200 rupees, then people will use public transport.”
New Delhi made huge strides toward improving its air quality after the Supreme Court ordered all taxis, auto-rickshaws and buses to be converted to use compressed natural gas in 1998. But the problem has been steadily creeping back with the rapid growth in the number of private cars and two-wheelers on the roads.
According to government statistics — which probably don't account for cars passing through from neighboring regions — there are more than 6.5 million cars on Delhi's streets, compared with just 500,000 in 1981. Some 1,000 new cars hit the roads every day.
Residents can taste the impact in the air, especially in the January "fog" season, which a dense, wet smog blankets the city most mornings, disrupting air traffic and causing numerous road accidents.