06/24/2022, 16.44
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Delhi bans heavy vehicles to reduce smog

by Alessandra De Poli

The ban takes effect on 1 October 2022 until the end of February 2023. Lorry drivers expect losses of millions of dollars. In winter, Delhi’s air becomes unbreathable; in 2019 alone, 1.67 million Indians died from air pollution-related diseases.

New Delhi (AsiaNews) – The Indian capital decided yesterday to ban heavy vehicles from the city’s roads for four months, from 1 October 2022 to the end of February 2023.

On 15 June, the Delhi government wrote to the neighbouring states of Haryana and Uttar Pradesh asking them to allow only lower-emission buses to enter the capital in an attempt to cut air pollution levels. On average, 70,000 to 80,000 trucks enter Delhi every day.

Vehicles that will be allowed into the city include CNG[*]-run commercial vehicles; e-trucks; all trucks carrying essential goods such as vegetables, fruits, grains, eggs, ice, milk and other food items; as well as tankers carrying petroleum products.

But lorry drivers and drivers’ associations area against the government's decision, saying four months of lockdown is too much and will result in millions of dollars worth of losses.

“Businesses will be seriously affected. This will also impact the government’s revenue and might culminate in a hike in prices of food, vegetables and other items," said Rajendra Kapoor, president of the All India Motor and Goods Transport Association.

The air quality of the Indian capital is very bad and tends to get worse in the winter months; to cope with the situation, heavy vehicle traffic is stopped for a maximum of 15-20 days either in November or December.

The situation is not much better in the summer. In early June, air quality ranges from “poor” to “very poor”, Central Pollution Control Board data show, while this May was the worst month in the last three years.

Come winter, lung diseases in humans spike. An estimated 1.67 million Indians died in 2019 from smog-related illnesses while economic losses reached US$ 36.8 billion dollars.

Many factors explain the high rate of pollution. For the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), a public interest research and advocacy organisation based in New Delhi, in the period immediately following the first lockdown traffic was responsible for 50 per cent of the concentration of pollutants in the city.

However, fires also play a major role. Every year, farmers in Punjab and Haryana burn crop residues from the previous harvest because environmentally-friendlier machines are expensive and the process of elimination is more time-consuming.

Last winter burning was particularly damaging because prolonged monsoons cut the time available to burn rice and wheat crop residues.

Lastly, the location of the city does not help. As climate modifies air currents, westerly wind in winter have started to slow down; thus, sand and dust from other states tend to settle in the plain where Delhi is located, causing problems to eyes and lungs.

[*] Compressed natural gas.

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