Those who use public transport or prefer walking or cycling are exposed to extremely high air pollution levels. While this is obvious because these commuters spend most of the time near tailpipes of polluting vehicles it also points to the irony of those who pollute less get affected the most. A study by Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) released on Friday too highlights the vulnerability of those using certain public and para transit modes in Delhi.

This month, CSE monitored air pollution levels in buses, autos, the metro, and while walking — mainly to assess the amount of pollution that citizens are exposed to on a daily basis while travelling in the city. Metro travelers were exposed to the lowest pollution levels. Since there is only a 24 hour national safe standard, CSE compared the peak levels of PM 2.5 (fine, respirable particles) people get exposed to with those monitored by Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC) close to the location of the commuter.

The study found that the exposure in all transport modes is very high. The average levels recorded are two to four times higher than the background levels reported by DPCC. Open modes like autorickshaws, walking and cycling have the highest exposure.

During non-peak traffic hours, all modes show lower levels: Difference between peak and non-peak 1.3 times higher for autos, and 1.5 times higher for those walking. Underground metro with sealed environment shows lower levels of about 209 microgramme per cubic metre. In a traffic jam on a stretch close to Paharganj, levels peaked at 1,170 microgramme per cu m. At a traffic jam near Govindpuri Metro Station, the peak level was 725 microgramme per cu m.

Meanwhile, commenting on Delhi governmnet's bidding for coal block, environmentalist Sunita Narain said, "AAP should first ensure that there is natural gas supply as the gas stations remain unused. Since gas is extremely expensive, AAP should negotiate to get it at administered price mechanism (APM) rates."

Highlights CSE's air pollution strategy for Delhi governmnet:

—Implement the Air Quality Index with health advisories and pollution emergency measures.

—Leapfrog emissions standards to Euro V in 2017.

—Control dieselisation with tax measures.

—Improve and scale up public transport and last mile connectivity.

—Implement the proposed plan for mass transport network including Metro, BRT, LRT as proposed in the revised Delhi Master Plan.

—Restrain growth of cars with parking restraints and taxes: Eliminate free parking. Introduce effectively high and variable parking charges; introduce residential parking permits with fees. Ban parking on footpaths under the provision of the Motor Vehicle Act 1988.

—Need stringent measures for on-road and older vehicles.

—Tighten PUC testing method and compliance.

—Make PUC certificate conditional requirement for obtaining annual insurance for vehicles.

—Road worthiness tests for private vehicles.

—Divert non-destined trucks and check overloading.

—Stringent action against visibly polluting vehicles.

Source: 20 February, 2015, The Economics Times