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How the World Keeps Air Clean
Feb 11, 2015

If Delhi is really serious about bringing down air pollution levels, it may have to enforce some unpopular measures along the lines of the steps taken by the UK, Singapore and China. In fact, National Green Tribunal (NGT)'s order on more than 15-year-old vehicles is already being resisted by their owners as well as agencies which cite logistical hurdles to implement the ban. Let’s have a look at how some other countries have successfully implemented stiff measures to reduce air pollution.

  • UK is facing a fine of £300 million a year for repeatedly violating the European Union's directive on air quality and not meeting the standard for oxides of nitrogen (NOX), which are major contributors to air pollution. Besides, there is legal pressure from the European Court of Justice on Britain's polluting cities. London Mayor Boris Johnson is now considering implementing weekly car-free days along the lines of what Jakarta does in congested areas every Sunday.

  • In 2008, despite stiff resistance from authorities, people and businesses, London implemented the low emission zone policy where cars, buses, lorries and others that do not conform to emission standards are fined heavily. This despite a low concentrations of PM 2.5 (fine, respirable matter) in London's air. For instance, average annual concentrations of PM 2.5 in London was 6.5 microgram per cubic metre in 2010, about 20-25 times lesser than annual average concentrations in Delhi.

  • Transport for London, the body that manages the transport system in Greater London, implements the scheme by tracking images captured by automatic number plate recognition cameras that help identify polluting vehicles. Germany has a similar emissions zone where entry is banned for polluting vehicles.

  • Singapore is the first city in the world to implement Electronic Road Pricing (ERP). The measure that came into effect from September 1998 involves a method whereby a smart card is installed in every vehicle and congestion charges are automatically deducted. So at ERP zones when any vehicle slows down due to congestion, an amount is deducted for contributing to the jam. Besides, owning a car in Singapore is very expensive due to higher taxes—the certificate on entitlement costs one almost equal the car's original price.

  • Even China has adopted some stringent measures in recent years after its air pollution reached alarming levels. According to an analysis by the Centre for Science and Environment, Bejing allowed 2.4 lakh cars to be sold in 2012 after it took the decision to cap the number of four-wheelers. In 2010, about 8,00,000 cars were sold in Beijing. The current actual demand in the city is a staggering number of 1,515,449.

  • Colombian cities have a 20 percent surcharge on petrol sales. In fact, half of Bogota's revenue from this surcharge funds the city's public transport system. So effectively, private vehicle owners finance one-third of the mass transport system. France now has a new taxation system where eco-friendly cars receive a bonus of 200 to 5,000 euros depending on emissions and a CO2 emissions penalty for polluting vehicles. Now, France has announced that it gradually wants to phase out the use of diesel fuel for passenger cars and will put in place a system to identify most polluting vehicles with a car identification system.

A section of experts though feels such drastic measures like a "low emission zone" may be impossible to implement in Delhi where people end up fighting over paying a small toll tax. But, at least a start has to be made. People will resist but there is no silver bullet for the air pollution crisis. While a low emission zone or congestion tax may be difficult to implement without a robust public transport system, why not charge higher fee for parking?

Even implementing the ban on 15-year-old vehicles can be very effective. According to an analysis, it can cut emissions by 30 to 40 percent

 


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