Delhi air pollution: Why what worked for China does not work in India

Imitation is an art and to be successful at it, one needs to apply mind. This is not a statement on the governments accountable for checking pollution in Delhi and NCR. But if you have been schooled in north Indian states, chances are high that you heard teachers saying this. A lack of application, it appears, is the reason why what has been working for China for past few years has failed to reduce air pollution in Delhi.

The Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP) for Delhi is largely inspired by the Chinese experience in Beijing, which was once – but not in a distant past — the most polluted national capital of the world. Today, Delhi holds that dubious distinction.

Delhi air is poisonous. Schools have been closed. People have been advised by the government agencies to stay indoors. That, by the way, is no option for lakhs who have to weather Delhi air pollution to go to office and come back home. Street vendors and shopkeepers cannot shut their shops. This would bring Delhi’s economy to a grinding halt. And, residents have to go out to local markets to buy groceries as families cannot stay hungry. Delivery boys, too, breathe the same poison if and when their reach your doorstep.

The GRAP is now out in Delhi-NCR. The cabinet secretary, the top-most bureaucrat of the country, is now monitoring the implementation of GRAP measures. He (read the central government) stepped in on Sunday.

Sunday was, incidentally, the day when Delhi air pollution reached its worst level since November 6, 2016. According to the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), the 24-hour average air quality index (AQI) in Delhi stood at 494 at 4 pm on Sunday. Three years ago, it was 497.