New Delhi, Nov 13 : Delhis air quality index (AQI) has been soaring at dangerous levels, and as residents gasp for clean air, Barun Aggarwal, an air quality expert who has co-authored the book 'How To Grow Fresh Air, says that things will not improve until there is a policy push.
Aggarwal is the CEO of BreatheEasy Consultants, and has co-founded an NGO 'Care for Air' to help create awareness about air pollution and health hazards associated with it. Excerpts from an interview: 1. In the climate discourse, a lot of focus goes to the individual's role in saving the environment.
The real truth is that an individual can do nothing to fix a problem of this magnitude. Nobody wants to hear that, everyone wants to feel that they are part of a solution by saying I did my bit, I took the metro, I am buying the right car or I'm not buying a car at all. In the scheme of things, unless every single person does that, it's not making a difference. Everyone will not do it, unless it becomes policy.
2.Your thoughts on the odd-even rule.
Odd-even is brilliant when it comes to creating awareness about the problem of odd-even. However, I think a reasonable amount of awareness is there. Now, odd-even is an inconvenience to the people, because scientifically it does nothing. We have done the numbers, and have shown the government that they are reducing pollution by 4-5 per cent at best.
There are three issues that determines emissions from automobiles. One is the total number of vehicles, which odd-even addresses. Then, the number of kilometres per vehicle and third is the quality of emissions per kilometre per vehicle. Both of the second one, get worse. Cars are doing multiple trips. Taxis are much more during odd-even. There are too many exemptions.
3. Should there be a policy push to install air purifiers in closed spaces like schools, offices and the like? I think it's hard to create policy around that. From what we are trying to achieve from a health and wellness perspective. But should it be done? It's a no-brainer. People spend 80-90 per cent of their time indoors, and if you can actually live in a clean environment indoors, it can have a huge impact on your health and productivity. That has a direct impact on the gross domestic product (GDP).
The economic cost of not doing something is much greater than the cost of fixing the problem that you have. It's said Delhiites have lost between three to six years of their lives owing to air pollution. Let's take three. These years lost, what is the tax burden that you are going to lose when I live less for three years? 4.How do we then tackle the automobile pollution? Do we reduce the numbers? It's draconian, but can be done. Automobile manufacturers will be up in arms, but do you want to save a million people from dying or you want the auto sector to grow? It's a tough choice but has to be done.
First, get Bharat Stage VI (BS-VI) fuel to all of India as soon as possible. Don't give them the flexibility. Yes, you have invested in Stage 3, Stage 4 cars, but you have made money also. Go back to invest in stage 6.
Increase the tax on automobiles by 10X. Make it difficult to own a vehicle. First fix your public infrastructure. We've got models around the world. Remove taxes on electric vehicles.
(Siddhi Jain can be contacted at email@example.com)