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Mainstream, VOL 62 No 18, May 4, 2024

A Green Day – Manifesto For a Greener Delhi | Jeevesh Gupta

Saturday 4 May 2024



Despite repeated promises of a clean air, Delhites continue to suffer from air borne diseases with the city becoming unliveable. Citizens especially young children are finding it tougher and tougher to breathe the city air. The analysis by CSE found that in 2023, 151 days met the National Ambient air quality standards. Delhi recorded the worst December in 2023, in terms of air quality, in the last five years with its average air quality index (AQI) touching 348 in the same month which is a slight decline over the December month in 2022. With cities like Melbourne, New York, Buenos Aires, Nairobi, Dubai, Singapore, Tokyo AQI ranging between 0-50, can we even say that a decline from 400 to 300 or even 200 is an achievement?

The City continues to witness rampant construction and dust pollution with no adherence to guidelines. Despite SC rulings, innumerable building material vendors are mushrooming all across the city in the heart of many colonies.


Tree cutting is rampant across Delhi and trees are being cut by builders, for commercial and government projects, road expansion and the list goes on. Take the example of 7 GPRA colonies (Sarojini Nagar, Netaji Nagar, Kidwai Nagar, Nauroji Nagar etc.) where rampant tree cutting continues to happen and dust pollution was ensured for South Delhi citizens for last 7-8 years and shall happen for many years to come. PIB released a news in 2018 which said the following: “All the trees are not being cut. Only 14,031 nos. trees are to be cut out of the existing trees of 21,040 nos. Moreover, against the 21,040 nos. of existing trees; 23,475 nos. of trees shall be available in these colonies during/after the Re-development (saving of 6,834 nos., transplantation of 1,213 nos. and new plantation of 15,428 nos.).” what one only sees is the concrete with no tree addition only increasing the load on the existing infrastructure in the major chunk of South Delhi.

When one looks at MPD 2021, it gives 150 sq km as the green cover of Delhi in 2001 whereas Delhi state action plan on climate change gives the 2001 green cover figure as 85 sq km. Both the documents claim that this cover has increased to approx. 300 sq km in 2017. While government claims that lacs of fresh saplings are being planted but at least 90% die due to non-availability of water and proper care. In most cases plantations are done in car parkings or public areas where these saplings get killed the very next day after the “green drive”.


Will Delhi become Cape Town? Ground water continues to being consumed at an ever increasing pace. As per the latest 2022-23 ground water report by central ground water board (CGWB), water levels especially in South Delhi’s monitored bore wells have gone down more than 40 meters below ground level. 35% of borewells monitored across Delhi had water at more than 20 meters below ground level. Citizens continue to stare at a water starved Delhi summer with water pollution to add to their woes.

Yamuna BOD load (BOD is a measure of the amount of oxygen required to remove waste organic matter from water in the process of decomposition by aerobic bacteria.) per day had substantially gone up from 130 Tons per day in 1993 to 270 Tons per day in 2008 whereas the incurred cost towards Yamuna went up from 20 crores to 5680 crores during the same period. Even in 2019 the BOD load per day remained at 264 Tons per day while the costs have only gone up. Even after 28 years and YAP (Yamuna action plan) I,II and III having been implemented with Japanese grant, solution to Yamuna’s pollution is not in sight.

In 2023, DPCC has given a report that the BOD level was down 40% in the Shahdara drain, 37% in the Najafgarh drain and 31% in the Yamuna near Kashmere Gate Inter-State Bus Terminal in May this year compared with the levels measured in the same month in 2022. While it was a welcome news but there is still a long way to go. The river can be considered fit for bathing if BOD is less than 3 milligrams per litre and dissolved oxygen (DO) is greater than 5 milligrams per litre which still looks like a distant dream despite promises by the current government.

Citizen demands:

a. Make Yamuna fit for Bathing and accessible to tourists for boating and water tour of the city.

b. Removal drive for moving out construction material vends from colonies thus reducing dust pollution.

c. Put a cap on number of vehicles in the city of Delhi like Singapore to reduce air pollution, road traffic & parking woes.

d. Promise of putting bio-degradable waste treatment plants at ward level was made by the current Delhi government. It has only been a pipe dream.

e. Encroachments across Delhi are only increasing. Removal drive is long pending despite innumerable supreme court rulings.

f. Blanket ban on tree cutting in Delhi and make architectural designs compulsorily trees inclusive. Even smaller residential structures in government’s new construction plan could have gone up vertically. By cutting trees and including more land for building concrete monsters has only reduced Delhi’s tree cover.

g. Tons of waste is being put by restaurants into the sewer line to avoid prescribed disposal plan and save costs. All this only adds to the pollution and needs monitoring which is currently not being done due to rampant corrupt practices.

(Author: Jeevesh Gupta is the co-author of his upcoming book A GREEN DAY)

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