New Delhi, Feb 28 (G’nY) New service: When India’s Supreme Court in 1998 mandated Delhi public vehicle fleet to run on compressed natural gas (CNG) instead of petrol or diesel there was a hope that it will help Delhi population to breathe easy. In 2003 capitals 90,000 buses, taxis and autorickshaws were converted to run on CNG. 12 years later the pollution in Delhi is the worst in the world.
The recent reports from World Health Organisation (WHO) on particulate matter 2.5 micrometers shows that of the top 20 most polluted cities 13 are in India. A study titled, “Lower pollution longer lives” authored by Michael Greenstone published in Feb 2015 in Economic & Political Weekly, finds that 660 million people in India live in areas where pollution level exceeds PM2.5 levels which according to them reduces life expectancy by birth by 3.2 years on average.
CNG is considered to be a safe fuel because it is lighter than air and it disperses easily into the atmosphere and does not form a sufficiently rich mixture for combustion. According to experts, CNG is cleaner, safer, and cheaper when compared to other fuels. According to Dr. B. Mukhopadhyay, assistant director general of meteorology, Indian Meteorology Department (Pune) “after the induction of CNG back in 2003 there was a reduction in the level of sulphur content and respiratory particulate matter in the air but the increase in private vehicles negate the positive changes. Levels of ozone, a product of the breakdown of oxides of nitrogen (NOx) in sunlight, and a major cause of respiratory problems – have been going up over the years”.
(Photo courtesy: Gn’Y photo bank)
The data given by Minister of Environment and Forests & Climate Change in reply to a question posed by Dr. Janardhan Waghmare in Rajya Sabha 2012 about information on the prevailing status of air quality in Delhi and details of the impact of mass introduction of CNG public and private vehicles on air quality in the capital shows the PM10 pollution remained constant between 2001 and 2005, but has since risen more than 2.5 times. Astonishingly no data was available about PM2.5 which is more dangerous than PM 10. This discrepancies in the data provided creates a suspicion on whether CNG is the viable solution going forward for reducing air pollution.
“As of now, CNG is the best possible solution available in the current scenario but we need to seek better options for the future,” states Dr. S. K. Peshin, deputy director general, Environmental Monitoring and Research Centre, EMRC New Delhi.