A reduction of 30% over the next five years would fall short of the target of 35% over the next three years and 50% in five years proposed by environment minister Harsh Vardhan in February this year. The number of environment marshals, who will flag violations for action, has been increased from 83 to 270. Other measures such as the deployment of mobile air purifiers have also been rolled out. Following a Supreme Court order to impound overage diesel and petrol vehicles, the Delhi government said it de-registered 40 lakh such vehicles and that these would be impounded if found plying on the roads. The Supreme Court-appointed Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority, which is continuously monitoring the situation has directed suspension of a slew of activities in Delhi and the NCR districts till November 10.
These include excavation and civil construction as well as activities of stone crushers and hot mix plants that generate dust pollution. The promise of a target for pollution reduction comes as the new report by the United Nations revealed that about 4 billion people — 92% of Asia and the Pacific’s population — were exposed to levels of air pollution that pose a significant risk to their health. Besides significant adverse health impacts including respiratory illnesses, cardiovascular ailments and higher incidence of diabetes, poor air quality extracts significant economic costs. The most recent report from the World Health Organisation, which uses the data provided by national governments and regulators, found that India was home to 11 of the 20 most polluted cities in the world.