Delhi World's Most Polluted City. But it is Not an Election Issue

The smog in Delhi on a winter morning.

Delhi may be the most polluted city in the world according to last year's report by the World Health Organisation, but that's not the top election issue this time. In fact, going by the manifestos of the BJP, Aam Aadmi Party and the Congress, it is not an issue at all.

At Lodhi Gardens -- part of the prestigious New Delhi constituency -- the pollution levels show Particulate Matter (PM) 2.5 at a worrying level of 135 micrograms. The normal is 60 micrograms.

The constituency is seeing a triangular contest between AAP chief Arvind Kejriwal, senior Congress leader Kiran Walia and BJP's fresh entry - Nupur Sharma.

PM 2.5 is the component that causes respiratory diseases, lung cancer and heart attacks. It is the highest in winter mornings when a thick blanket of smog envelopes the city, and ironically, when many of Delhi's voters walk to stay fit.

During the recent visit of US President Barack Obama to Delhi, reports said 1,200 air purifiers came with him. It was also reported that their exposure to city was significantly reduced to avoid the toxic air.

But despite these reports, politicians refuse to take the necessary steps to reduce air pollution.

Vehicular traffic contributes 38% to pollution, yet the number of vehicles has grown by 30% in the last 15 years to reach 80 lakh. This number needs to be controlled and one ways to do that is strengthening public transportation, say experts.

The Congress manifesto talks about increasing green cover to 25% and acknowledges that pollution needs to be drastically controlled, but doesn't say how. Former health minister Kiran Walia understands the health impact of air pollution, but talks about the Congress' past efforts of building the Metro, planting trees and introducing CNG.

The BJP is no different. Its Vision document for Delhi talks about a 35% green cover by 2020 and "concrete steps to reduce pollution" but doesn't say what those steps will be. "A time-bound plan needs to be made to tackle the problem of air pollution," Environment minister Prakash Javadekar told NDTV.

The Aam Admi Party's manifesto talks about improving public transportation to reduce vehicular traffic and increasing green cover, along with providing incentives for low emission fuels. But former transport minister Saurabh Bhardwaj admits he hasn't brought up the issue of air pollution in his public gatherings.

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