Risks in Delhi: Environmental concerns
Taranjot Kaur Gadhok
HSMI (HUSDCO), New Delhi
In Delhi toady pollution is one of the most critical problems facing the public and concerned authorities. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), Delhi is the fourth most polluted city in the world in terms of Suspended Particulate Matter (SPM). The growing pollution is responsible for increasing health problems. the deteriorating environment is the result of population pressure and haphazard growth. Industrial development has been haphazard and unplanned. Only about 2-% of the industrial units are in approved industrial areas; the remainder are spread over the city in residential and commercial area Road transport is the sole mode of public transport; there has been a phenomenal increase in the vehicle population, which was increased from2 lackh in 1971 to 2 lakh in 1999. (NCT Fact Sheet Delhi, 1999).
Ambient air quality
Data from continuous monitoring of air quality reveals that suspended particulate matter levels still far exceed stipulated standards, there is a significant downward trend as indicated in the following tables.
According to a study by Delhi Pollution Control committee, noise levels in Delhi exceeds permissible levels in all areas except industrial areas. since noise is measured on a logarithmic scale, an increase of every 3-5 dBA has twice the effect on humans. Diesel generating sets and vehicles, particularly auto rickshaws, have been identified as major sources of noise pollution in Delhi.
Due to phenomenal growth in the number of motor vehicles Delhi and power generation based on a fired power stations, total amount on coal fired power stations, total amount of pollutants received by the city is around 3000 tonnes as compared to 100 tonnes a decade ago. Sixty five percent of these pollutants are produced by motor vehicles. Annual average maximum, levels of SPM in Delhi's air has increased from 7.6 times the permissible limit in 1987 to 16.7 time in 1995.
Average annual emissions compared to national and international standards (ug/m3)
Ug/m3: Microgrammes per cubic meters, NAAQS: National Ambient Air Quality Standards,
WHO: World Health Organization, Sensitive Areas: Hospitals, national heritage sites like the Taj Mahal
The steep increase in vehicle population has resulted.
(metric tones per day)
In a corresponding increase in pollutants emitted by vehicles. Petrol consumption has increased from 133 thousands tons in 1980-81 to 449 thousand tons in 1996-97 and HSD consumption from 377 thousands tons to 1,234 thousand tons during the same period. Two wheelers, which constitute 66% of the vehicles registered in Delhi, are the major source of air pollution.
Pollution from thermal power plant
Thermal power plants contribute to 13% of air pollution. The main pollutants are stack emissions; fly ash generations and fugitive emission in coal handling. All thee thermal power plants Delhi need better use of their emission control devices and the fly ash that they generate.
Industrial air pollution
The air pollution generated from industrial activity in Delhi is about 12% of total air pollution. More than 1,300 industrial units that were not allowed to operate under the MPD - 2001 norms have been closed. The 1991 reports by the National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI), Nagpur documents the amount of pollution that is contributed by different sectors in Delhi:
In relative terms, the quantum industrial air pollution has decreased over the years. However, vehicular pollution has increased rapidly. The drop in share of domestic air pollution is due to the increased number of LPG connections in Delhi, which have replaced other forms of fuel.
Noise levels in Delhi exceed permissible levels in all areas except industrial areas according to a study by the Delhi Pollution Control Committee. Since noise is measured on a logarithmic scale, an increase of every 3-4 dBA has twice the effect on humans. Diesels generating sets and vehicles, particularly auto rickshaws, have been identified as major sources of noise pollution of Delhi.
Water pollution (surface water pollution)
Around 1393 mld of sewerage finds its way into river Yamuna through 19 major drains. Out falling into the river carrying 218 mls which includes 48 mgd of industrial effluent. BOD content of this water is 587 mld in all the 5 sewerage zones of Delhi. 64% of total BOD is from domestic sources. 10-15% of nutrients added to the soils through fertilizers eventually find their surface water system. The highest load occurs from the NCT Delhi (about 152 MT/day of BOD load) as compared to the loads of other cities which vary from 1 mt/day) as per Yamuna Action Plan. Everyday about 1880 mld of waste water is discharge into the river from Delhi through 18 drains. More than 95% waster water in Delhi is drained by 5 drains viz. Nazafgarh, Sen Nursing home, and power house drain.
Ground water pollution
There is progressive increase in bicarbonate sulphate and chloride ions with increase in salinity, predominant in ground water from areas with high salinity at deeper levels to the tine of EC 10,00 micro siemens/cm. North western and south western part of NCT have saline water at all levels. The NCT of Delhi has 428.07 mcm utilizable. Ground water resources and balance available is 140.79. Fluoride concentration is more than 1.5 mg/litre which is the permissible concentration, nitrate concentration is more than 45 mg/litre and at some places it is even more than 100mg/litre.
Domestic waste water pollution
The increase in population has resulted in a corresponding increase in the volume of domestic waste water that is generated. Sewage treatment capacity is about 344 MGD at present against 470 MGD wastewater that is generated each day in Delhi. The sewage treatment capacity is not fully utilized due to malfunctioning of the trunk sewer system.
The industrial waste water generated in Delhi is about 70 MGD. Although some industrial units have provided facilities to treat wastewater, most small scale industries do not have such facilities.
The 48 km stretch of the Yamuna River in Delhi is heavily polluted by domestic and industrial wastewater. The river water upstream of Wazirabad is fit for drinking after it has been treated, but after the confluence of Najafgarh drain and 18 other major drains, the water quality becomes heavily degraded and is unfit even for animal consumption and irrigation.
There are 28 industrial areas in Delhi. Most of the small and tiny industries do not have individual facilities to treat liquid waste. The Supreme Court has ordered that 15 common Effluent Treatment Plants (CETPs) be constructed. Action has been taken against 2,300 industrial units in Delhi so far (January 2000) and is continuing to cover all such water polluting units.
Hospital waste pollution
With the increase in the number of hospitals and nursing home sin Delhi, hospital waste has become another area of concern. Private nursing homes and small hospitals do not have arrangements to treat hospital waste. Installing incinerators to burn hospital waste is not an ideal solution since these incinerators add to air pollution.
Pollution from thermal power plant
Thermal power plants contribute to 13% of air pollution. The main pollutants are stack emissions, fly ash generation and fugitive emission in coal handling. The cost of constructing 15 CETPs, which was estimated at about Rs 190 crore. Progress has been slow due to reluctance on the part of industrial units to contribute their share.
Accidents in Delhi
Road accidents Compared to population growth of 43% in the city during the last decade the growth of motor vehicles has grown by 87% with road length only increasing marginally by 15%, that too within MCD area. No of people injured and killed inroad accidents ahs increased by 33-36%
The unchecked and unplanned growth of cities as well as large floating population are major contributing factors to urban crimes. Criminal propensity is also known to be higher in urban industrial area. Migration of poor and illiterate people having roots in a simple environment, consequent to migration, suffer emotional instability in the urban settings. They are easily lured into crime like theft, robbery, smuggling or even terrorist's activities.
Forms of urban crimes
Urban crimes are being presently recorded under two major heads, namely (a) as defined in the various sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and (b) crimes identified under the special and local laws. A total of 2,47,930 cognizable crimes under the IPC were reported in the three Metropolitan Cities of the country during 1995. These crimes registered an increase of 7.6% over the previous year.
Murder and attempt to commit murder as reported incidents wise is highest in Delhi (413). These has been increase in cases of kidnapping and abduction with effect from 1994 in all mega cities however Delhi recorded the highest incidence. (1,70,111) of kidnapping and abduction. A part from above Delhi has been reported as most unsafe city of the country for women. Highest number of rape cases or murders (305) have been reported. Delhi is only next to Bombay and Bangalore in robbery and burglary.
The cities, which witnessed high incidence of robberies were Bombay (757), Bangalore (524), Delhi (491) and Nagpur (267).
Environment development and disasters
Ecological imbalance created due to abuse and overuse of environmental services in the city has left very thin line between natural and man made disasters. The city is subjected to congestion and high density of population living in poor sanitary conditions. Poverty has mad ea large population live as squatters on the flood plains of the Yamuna, which are vulnerable to hazards like fires, floods and earthquakes. Apart from these, risks of violence, crime and road accidents take a big toll of life in the capital city of the country.
The topography of the city has two main features - the Ridge and the river Yamuna. Although Delhi was built many times, these two natural boundaries were never transgressed. The Ridge was perceived (incorrectly) as an impenetrable area inhabited by extraordinary plants and fierce animals. The people of Delhi were fortunate to have both river as well as lush green forest. They coexisted with a vast number of beings from wolves to leopards to minute insect in perfect harmony. With the transfer of capital of India from Calcutta to Delhi during British times, developmental activities started in the city. The Ridge and the river started losing their natural state. The degradation of these two worsened when the city started developing across its natural two boundaries.
Today the development continues defying city planning logics. Areas west of the Ridge have been colonized and the natural drainage pattern ate disturbed. Areas East of Yamuna which have been developed despite being low tying and prone to water logging and inundation, a re toady totally flood prone. The Ridge as lost its topographical continuity, having been blasted in many placed to build new colonies. Today only four small broken patches are left, one near Delhi University, a large one near Dhaula Kuan and two in South Delhi, one of which Sanjay Van is probably still the most pristine lost to artificial gardens and recreational parks, such as Buddha Jayanti Park and Mahavir Jayanti Park. The perfect balance and harmony of nature had been disturbed. Undergrowth which was home to many life-forms has been rampantly cleared.
However, amazingly, despite all sorts of pressures like tree-falling, urbanization, industrialization, pollution, mining etc, the Ridge forest still services in those small patches. Equally surprising, it still sustains a myriad of life forms. The river Yamuna has turned more or less into a drain and does not carry clear fresh water any more. Why have we destroyed our natural heritage, the ridge and the river, and what are we leaving behind for future generations?
Nature cannot take more abuse hence the degradation caused to the environment of the city has to respond in terms of its wrath. Floods in Delhi are not natures wrong doing, it is invariably the irresponsibility of the authorities and those who are totally insensitive to human life blinded by the haves and have-nots of economics. This is very clear from the recurring phenomenon of floods in the mighty river Yamuna and flash floods caused by rains due to chocked drains in Delhi.