Delhi’s Achilles heel: Eight spots with foulest air in national capital

The national capital, which is looking to its neighbouring states to control crop stubble burning, is not faring so well in its fight against local sources of pollution that foul the air every day.

The Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC) has identified 13 ‘hot spots’ where unchecked violations cause pollution to spike. From illegal industries to plastic waste being set on fire, these areas are Delhi’s Achilles’ heel.

The hot spots list names Okhla Phase-2, Narela, Bawana, Mundka, Punjabi Bagh, Dwarka, Wazirpur, Rohini, Anand Vihar, RK Puram, Jahangirpuri, Vivek Vihar and Ashok Vihar. Six more have been identified in NCR— Faridabad Phase-1 and 2, Udyog Vihar, Bahadurgarh, Bhiwadi and Sahibabad.

Hindustan Times did a spot check at eight hot spots to see what the government has done to check pollution and to understand the problems unique to each area.

Vivek Vihar

The Jhilmil Industrial Area, just 3km from Vivek Vihar, is the hub of open dumping of plastic waste.

HT inspected the area and found that dumps largely comprised plastic wire coatings and sheets, and packaging material. Construction debris had also found its way there.

Prashant Singh, who owns an eatery below the Jhilmil flyover, said after midnight, people are often seen dumping bags of plastic waste below the flyover and the Metro bridge. “It has been seven years since I set up business here and I have not seen any agency clear the trash.

Last week, he said, a fire broke out in one of the dumps and five fire tenders were called in to douse the flames.

When HT visited the spot, the aftermath of the fire could be seen there — the blackened pillars of the flyover and Metro and charred waste.

Anand Vihar

The transport hub of Delhi is riddled with multiple pollution sources— road dust, vehicular emissions and the open burning of garbage.

Data shows that Anand Vihar bus terminal handles over 4,000 to 5,000 buses every day, of which nearly 60% come from other states. Even though the Delhi government has tightened the noose around polluting diesel vehicles within the city, all rules fly out the window at the bus terminal.

Since there is no way to stop diesel-run buses from neighbouring states, this area is mostly shrouded in thick smoke. What makes things worse is the Kaushambi bus depot, on the other side of the road. Most of the diesel-run, rickety buses plying within Uttar Pradesh have crossed their lifespan of 10 years (after which diesel vehicles start polluting).

“People also openly burn garbage below the foot over bridge. And since I can’t quit work, I’m losing years from my life and no agency will be able to compensate that,” Raghuvendra Trivedi, a bus conductor, said.

Dwarka

The Dwarka sub-city in southwest Delhi has been a victim of government apathy for many years. The absence of adequate public transport has created a dependency on private vehicles. Also, empty plots have turned garbage dumps, which are regularly set on fire.

“Many sectors of Dwarka are still not connected by public transport. Most residents have to travel several kilometres to reach a bus stand/Metro station,” Manoj Rajput, of Dwarka’s Sector 6, said.

The open fires are also a major problem. Data provided by the Delhi Fire Services (DFS) shows that from October 1 to October 15, 12 fires were reported from Palam and Dwarka.

“People dump garbage in open areas and then set it on fire,” a senior fire official said.

Mundka, Bawana, Mandoli and Narela

Environment pollution (prevention and control) authority (Epca) chairman Bhure Lal inspected industrial areas early October and found signs of “polluting fuels” being used in Mandoli.

“We found industrial waste being dumped outside. The DPCC has been ordered to act against errant industries,” Lal said.

When HT visited Mandoli industrial area in northeast Delhi, there was a haze along the road that had industries on both sides. “Even this haze is better than what it used to be. The agencies, this time, had sealed many polluting industries,” Ram Pal, a Delhi Police constable, manning the area, said.

The DPCC, last month, had sealed around 60 units here for using coal, diesel and pet coke.

Last winter, major violations were reported from Bawana, Narela and Mudka. So, this year, the authorities cracked down on pollution in these parts. Monthly inspections led to sealing of illegal industries, which helped reduce pollution.

RK Puram

The residential neighbourhood in south Delhi lies sandwiched between the Ring Road and the Outer Ring Road, two stretches with the highest vehicular volume in Delhi. The air here is most foul, owing to vehicular emissions.

“With the opening of the new Rao Tula Ram Marg flyover, the jams on Outer Ring Road have eased. Hopefully, this will reduce pollution,” a traffic constable said.

Residents also complained of open kitchens. Kripal Singh, a resident of RK Puram’s Sector 7, said several small restaurants have tandoors that produce a lot of wood and coal smoke. “This might not be a major contributor but is a local factor,” Singh said.

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