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January 27, 2013

Rules on paper, city stays noisy

Pollution Board Has Five Monitoring Centres, Three In Quiet Localities

New Delhi:Some would say it is the quintessential Punjabi spirit while others argue it is a pan-Indian streak but what can’t be denied is that we are a very loud people. The National Green Tribunal has issued an order to curb noise pollution in the capital, execution of which is mandatory for Delhi Pollution Control Committee. However, though something like excessive honking is already a compoundable offence, officials say it is a challenge to implement this order. 
    Delhi has five noise monitoring stations, two are located deep inside educational campuses and one in a residential area. Only two, at Pragati Maidan and Central Pollution Control Board’s Karkardooma office, are close to traffic points. Sources say that for a city the size of Delhi, five instruments are not enough and only three effectively indicate actual noise pollution levels. Another five are in the pipeline but CPCB sources say installation will take at least six months. 
    “The ones at DTU, Dilshad Garden and NSIT normally record noise levels below the standard about 80% of the time. Noise levels at Pragati Maidan are usually higher than the standard while those at CPCB peak with traffic,” said a CPCB official. 
    Another system exists at IGI but in absence of standards for aircraft, maintaining the record is pointless. Residents of Vasant Kunj took the matter to court after the new 
runway opened which placed the colony right in the middle of aircraft path. 
    Central Road Research Institute carried out a study of noise levels in Delhi in 2012 and found that trucks are the biggest source of noise pollution. At most of the 100 places surveyed, the decibel range was between 78 and 83. This, said a CRRI scientist, is almost 16 times more than permissible level. 
    “The noisiest area surveyed was the marble market in Kirti Nagar where 125 decibels were recorded. Meena Ba
zar in Jama Masjid recorded a high of 102.8 decibels. Anand Vihar ISBT and the Sangam Vihar bus stop in south Delhi recorded 108 and 114 decibels, respectively,” said a 2011 report published by Centre for Science and Environment. 
    The NGT order addresses the problem of traffic, interstate vehicles and trucks and lists specific procedures for DPCC, Delhi Police, traffic police and transport department. Delhi government sources claim these are not easy to follow. “A fine of Rs 100 exists for excessive honking. 
We have been asking for it to be increased for several months. Even so, a honking culture exists in Delhi and it is impossible to take action against everyone,” said a traffic cop. 
    All of us who have ever travelled on Delhi’s roads have experienced this culture. The first horn is honked in the first millisecond of the red light turning green by the car standing sixth in line. Come wedding season and those who live around DDA parks can barely get any sleep. No loud music or loudspeakers are permitted between 10pm and 
6am but dancing into the night is the done thing. “Sometimes action is taken but that generally means the volume being lowered slightly,” Pratima Ghosh of Patparganj said. 
    The NGT order for the transport department and traffic police includes checking and prohibiting entry of heavy vehicles fitted with pressure horns in Delhi. “It’s wellintentioned but not very practical. The most practical of all orders is setting up a 24x7 call centre for complaints which will be done at the earliest,” a government source said.

Source: TOI (26 Jan, 2013) 

January 16, 2013

A dip in Yamuna is dangerous

On Sankranti, city gives Yamuna a miss

Extremely Contaminated Water An Invitation To Infections And Allergies, Say Doctors


New Delhi: Time was when the Yamuna was a revered river and people from far and near gathered to take a dip in its waters, in Delhi, on every celestial event and festival. The French traveller, Francois Bernier, who witnessed a solar eclipse here in 1666, notes: “I took my station on the terrace of my house, situated on the banks of the Gemna, when I saw both shores of the river, for nearly a league (5.6 km) in length, covered with gentiles or idolaters, who stood in the water up to the waist”. 
    Such scenes were witnessed on the banks of all major rivers across north India on Monday, barring the Yamuna in Delhi. The polluted river was bereft of devotees taking a holy dip to mark the beginning of the harvest season. Even the administration made no arrangements for devotees, not expecting any to turn up to bathe in the dirty waters. 
    The 22km stretch of the river through Delhi is practically a sewer. Excluding the monsoon months, the river is completely deprived of a fresh water flow and creeps towards Uttar Pradesh carrying only Delhi’s waste. 
    Doctors warn that the river’s water has chemicals and microbes that can cause serious skin troubles. Dermatologist Dr Kabir Sardana says 
pollutants in the Yamuna pose a serious threat to immune-compromised patients. “They can get skin infections. Bathing in the river can also cause flaring of eczema, irritation, dryness and increased fragility of hair, among other issues. One should avoid bathing in the river water. Even if one does so for religious reasons, precautions like washing the body with normal water immediately thereafter and not drinking the water must be taken.” 
    So far, Rs 4,439 crore has been spent on cleaning the river but other than its worsening water quality, nothing has changed. The New Delhi Municipal Committee and the erstwhile Municipal Corporation of Delhi have spent an additional Rs 315 crore for river cleaning work that includes creation of toilets and cleaning of drains. UP and Delhi have also recently been pulled up by the Supreme Court on their ineffective work. 
    Central Pollution Control Board has been monitoring the water quality of the river, including the working of sewage treatment plants and effluent treatment plants in Delhi. In court, it revealed that the installed sewage treatment capacity in Delhi is 2,460 million litres per day against sewage generation of 3,800 mld. Only about 63% of the installed capacity is being used as several areas lack a sewer network, many drains are 
blocked and some STPs do not function to capacity. With 1,360 mld of sewage flowing into the river untreated, the effort to treat the remaining sewage has come to naught. 
    Delhi Jal Board has launched an ambitious project to solve the problem. The interceptor sewage system entails laying of parallel drains along Delhi’s three main drains, Shahdara, Supplementary and Najafgarh. 
These drains will trap all sewage falling into the drains, take it to STPs and carry treated sewage back to the drain. Work on these will take another two to three years. However, even this will not be able to bring the pollution down to levels where the water can be categorized as ‘bathing quality’. 
    CPCB officials say dissolved oxygen (DO), a measure of the “amount of oxygen available in dissolved form in water” is necessary to support aquatic life. If it drops below a certain level, life forms, specifically fish, are unable to continue living. Downstream of Khajoori Paltoon Pul, the point where the Najafgarh drain meets the river, DO is down to zero. Microbial levels are also very high by the time the water reaches Okhla Bridge.

Source: TOI (15 Jan, pg. 2)

Green plan awaits cabinet nod

In November 2012, when the city was in the throes of its worst smog spell in recent years, PM2.5 levels were consistently over 500 mg/cu m over several places. 
    “Beijing undertook several measures to control its air pollution levels during the Beijing Olympics in 2008 but the city is still prone to smog. More recently, it has decided to implement a lottery system for private cars which it hopes will keep a check on the rising number of vehicles,” said Anumita Roychowdhury, associate director at the Centre for Science and Environment. 
    Experts say that smaller the particulate matter, the more likely it is to affect human health. Between PM10 and PM2.5, the thicker particles are most likely to be natural while smaller ones are a result of activities such as combustion. This is why, claim environmentalists, vehicles are considered a major contributor to PM2.5 levels. 
    The two most likely reasons for high levels of PM2.5 at present are vehicular emissions and biomass burning. 
    Realizing the urgent need to tackle the city’s deteriorating air quality, Delhi’s environment department, with the help of other agencies, has drawn up a master plan. However, while it is still to be cleared by the cabinet, all good intentions are being wasted. The city’s biggest worry is its fleet of over 74 lakh vehicles to which about 1,700 are added each day.
Source: TOI (15 Jan, pg.3)

Capital Among World’s Most Polluted Cities

Thought Beijing air was bad? Delhi’s no better

New Delhi: Beijing’s air pollution made international news over the weekend when fine particulate matter (PM2.5) in the city air rose to an ‘out-of-index’ level of 755 mg/cu m. Pictures showed Beijing residents wearing masks amid advisories that they should stay indoors. Meanwhile, it was business as usual in Delhi on Monday when despite a clear windy day, the PM2.5 levels ranged from 130 to 565 mg/cu m. 
    According to the World Health Organization, the safe level of PM2.5 is 20 mg/ 

cu m. The Indian standard for this pollutant — that can cause respiratory illnesses and worsen heart ailments — is 60 mg/cu m. 
    On Monday, the highest value of 565 mg/cu m — con
sidered very hazardous — was recorded at R K Puram for about two hours. But even the lowest reading at this site was 191 mg/cu m, more than three times the Indian standard. 
Source: (TOI, 15 jan, pg. 1)

January 14, 2013

Eyesores to city attractions: plans afoot to develop Delhi nullahs into eco-corridors

Author(s): Amandeep Kang
Date: Jan 11, 2013

Pilot project cleared to convert Barapullah drain into an eco-mobility corridor

The Barapulla drain as it looks now (above) and artist's impression of how it will look after the project gets implemented (Courtesy UTTIPEC)

The nullahs of Delhi were once irrigation drains that watered the orchards scattered all over the city. Today, they are eyesores because they carry the city's sewage and filth. But it is possible to turn them into a major city attraction by developing them as landscaped green corridors that can be accessed by cyclists and pedestrians. A plan proposed several years ago to transform 350 km of drains in Delhi into eco-corridors that will have water treatment zones and walking-cum-cycling tracks finally seems to be moving ahead.
Recently, the Unified Traffic and Transportation Infrastructure (Planning and Engineering) Centre (UTTIPEC) cleared a pilot project—eco-mobility corridor or non-motorized public transport corridor—on either side of the Barapulla drain, costing an estimated Rs 16 crore. The nullah is one of the major drains of the city and connects major heritage zones of the city, including Humayun Tomb-Nizamuddin area and Mehrauli. The Jawaharlal Nehru stadium also falls in the way.
A quarter of the money for the project will be spent on treating the sewage in the drain, while the rest will be spent on cycle and pedestrian tracks. The tracks will be developed by raising both sides of the drain over a distance of 4.5 km. The idea is (as provided in the master plan) to ultimately convert all major drains of Delhi into green corridors to connect pedestrians and cyclists with metro stations and bus stops, using the linear connectivity offered by the natural drains of Delhi.
Director of UTTIPEC Ashok Bhattacharjee says the project will serve two purposes: it will improve water quality as well as reduce traffic congestion by providing cyclists and pedestrians safe passage. If successful, the project will be gradually extended to the other drains that criss-cross the city.
Major hurdle
The work has yet to begin owing to the multiplicity of agencies involved, such as Delhi Development Authority (DDA), Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD), Public Works Department and Delhi Jal Board. No date is set yet regarding the actual take off the project. Savita Bhandari, director (landscape) with DDA, says, “I am optimistic of its implementation in the near future.” One possible option could be the constitution of a governing body to ensure coordination among the involved agencies, says Bhattacharjee.
One of the aims of converting these drains into eco-corridors is to unlock the potential of this neglected drainage network and utilize it to establish walkways, pathways for cycling and to create green spaces. With this intention, in 2007 a master plan was prepared for south Delhi with Infrastructure Development Finance Company as lead consultant. Over 280 hectares of land is available around the drains that is not being utilised at present.
The proposal also includes treatment of the wastewater using alternate technologies such as bioremediation and constructed wetlands at the source level. Three government bodies, including DDA, MCD and Delhi and Delhi Tourism & Transport Department came together for its implementation. However, due to the high estimated cost (Rs 600 crore), the project could not be implemented.
The idea of a green corridor was first thought of in the late 1990’s when a group of women from Defence Colony Resident Welfare Association (Barapullah nullah passes through this posh south Delhi colony) felt that they must do something to keep the stinking storm water drain out of their sight. They decided that walls should be erected on both sides of the nullah. When Akash Hingorani, an architect who runs the Oasis Design Inc. came to know of this, he suggested a better solution.
“This (the walls) could have definitely kept the nullah out of the sight, but it would still be stinking and in fact could have created more problems both in terms of people using the walled area as a dumping ground, as well as a place for crime,” says Hingorani. He requested the Defence Colony RWA not to pursue this idea. He hit upon a more sustainable solution to get rid of the unpleasant sight of the nullah—develop the storm water drain into an eco-corridor.

Delhi’s natural drainage network is of 350 km in length. There are 19 major drains with over 15,000 sub-drains. The interesting part of this complex drainage network is that it provides a great opportunity to connect people and spaces to the current public transportation network. At present, these drains are a major issue of concern for Delhi as they perpetuate a number of environmental problems due the amount of untreated sewage that these drains carry. These drains carry more than 4,000 million litres a day of sewage, which is discharged into the Yamuna river, mostly untreated.
In 2009, Morphogenesis, another architecture firm also conducted similar research and made a similar proposal to the lieutenant governor’s secretariat; it aimed to utilise Delhi drains as an alternative cultural, environmental and transport network. However, it remains an ambitious idea given the level of planning and administrative coordination required among the government agencies and the stakeholders, particularly when considering its implementation throughout Delhi as per the master plan.


January 13, 2013

Draft Water Policy calls for Recycling - Consumption Must Come Down, Losses Should Be Cut

Draft water policy calls for Recycling
Consumption Must Come Down, Losses Should Be Cut
Neha Lalchandani TNN

New Delhi: Delhi’s draft policy on water has a strong focus on demand management, suggesting that per capita consumption in the city should decrease from the present average of 172 litres per capital per day (lpcd) by a minimum of 10 litres each decade. With limited fresh water sources, the capital also needs to shift focus to recycling and reuse of waste water and curtailing distribution losses. 

Delhi Jal Board’s 12th Five Year Plan Approach Paper has projected a demand of 1,140 million gallons per day by 2017 for a projected population of 190 million. 

The report prepared by Intach and still in the discussion stage says DJB is currently supplying 822 MGD of water which is an average of 220 lpcd. However, the supply is highly inequitable with Delhi Cantt getting 509 lpcd, NDMC areas being supplied 440 lpcd and outer Delhi areas getting as little as 40 lpcd. 

Delhi also has an extremely high level of non-revenue water which includes that lost en route to distribution points and that which is either stolen or supplied to areas that are not metered. The National Water Policy has directed that an acceptable figure of losses is 15%. 

Shifting focus from supply to demand will entail reduction in present per capita consumption. The Intach report suggests that Delhi should reduce its per capita consumption of 172 lpcd by a minimum of 10 litres every decade. The possible additions to Delhi’s supply are Munak Canal which will supply 80 MGD and Renuka Dam which, if commissioned in part, will supply 150 MGD and, if fully, an additional 275 MGD. Two other dams that could increase Delhi’s supply are Kishau and Lakhway Vyasi with 372 MGD and 185 MGD, respectively. 

However, keeping in mind changing climatic conditions, increase in demandand the fact that Delhi is a riparian state in water sharing agreements, it needs to increase its dependency on recycled water resources. The report suggests that recycled water should form 25% of supply by 2017, 50% by 2022 and a minimum of 80% by 2027. 

DJB CEO Debashree Mukherjee said that one way of reducing demand is by increasing tariff. “For that we are looking at volumetric tariff and full metering by 2020. People should know how much they consume and what they should pay for their consumption. Secondly, awareness building is also our prime focus,” she said.
It is essential to increase availability of water by controlling distribution losses. A maximum permissible loss of only 10% should be permitted by 2025. Delhi’s dependency on ground water also needs to be reduced, especially since its level across the city has dropped to alarmingly low levels. The policy advocates passing of the ground water bill that will give the state more control on ground water resources. It says that aquifer exploitation should be neutralized by 2020 and attain full recovery to 1990 levels by 2030. 

A Water Resources Commission will be set up. Its mandate will be to deal with the regulatory aspects of water and monitoring of policies. 

The commission would “coordinate the actions of all agencies involved with water services, resource management, river issues, foster technological and administrative and financial innovations, track developments in the northern river basins, track climate change impacts on resources, benchmark performance on policy parameters and act as a pricing regulator”. 

A strong focus of the policy is also on development and maintenance of water bodies and river Yamuna. Water quality of the river needs to be improved to bathing quality by 2020.

Priority to water allocation | Demand management | Recycled water resources | Access to water for all | Controlling distribution losses | Aquifer management | Database management | Institutional organization | River-related issues | Public education and awareness

January 4, 2013

Women recount horror stories, say helpline, PCR cops don’t help

NEW DELHI: Business management student Ritika Sharma's regular evening commute became a nightmare when three men began harassing her and her friend on a moving bus. But her attempts to reach the Delhi Police helpline were futile. And even when she decided to publicly reprimand the culprits, fellow passengers offered no help.

SONU MEHTA/HT PHOTOBlack Day was observed by protesters at Jantar Mantar on Thursday.

Sharma's is not an isolated case. Several women who have in the past been victims of sexual harassment feel helpless. Not only are helplines busy, but many deserted stretches have little or no police presence.

"My college is in Dwarka and there have been so many times when I’ve been stalked. I’ve tried to contact police's helpline, but the number is usually busy," said Arti (name changed), a student of Guru Gobind Singh Indraprastha University (GGSIPU).

Delhi Police officers, however, claim that all their helplines were functioning smoothly. "We have several helplines where women can call in times of distress. We always take action in case of complaint," said a senior police official.

But this isn't the only thing these women complained of. Many also said the police officials in PCR vans also refuse to help. "A few men passed lewd comments at my daughter and me when we got off at the Chhatarpur Metro Station a few days ago. When I approached a nearby PCR van, the officials told me that as there was no evidence, they could not do much," said Mamta Misra, a resident of Vasant Kunj. AT JANTAR MANTAR A modest group of protesters continued to camp at Jantar Mantar. Many of them had called for a Bharat Bandh on Thursday, but the bandh got little response. "People have proved their indifference to this cause. Once 15-20 days pass, people begin to lose interest," said Anil Kumar, a protester.

However, for the students from Lady Hardinge Medical College, an attempt to demand justice for the victim was thwarted by the police. Their silent walk in protest to their college with placards was not allowed as the police 'had orders to prohibit any form of protest outside Jantar Mantar'.

Source: Hindustan Times, Delhi Edition, 04-01-2013

January 1, 2013

Delhi Govt announces: 24x7 Helpline for Women