Although Delhi is known as one of the world's most polluted cities, none of the major political parties have highlighted how they plan to tackle pollution in their manifestos for the upcoming civic election for which voting takes place on Sunday.
The main contest in Delhi is between the three major players in the city's politics -- the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the Congress and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP).
AAP runs the Delhi government but doesn’t have control over three municipal corporations which have been under BJP’s control for the last 10 years.
All three parties have promised closure of landfills in Delhi if elected to power, but none have any effective plan to control air pollution in the national capital, named among global cities with the worst ambient air.
No Talk About Air Pollution
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal has promised to make the city clean and garbage-free if AAP gets control of the civic bodies as well, but there is little he or his party have said about tackling air pollution that hangs like a shroud over the capital, especially in winter.
Delhiites have not forgotten the "great smog" between November 1 and 9 last year, when air quality deteriorated so much after Diwali that it was termed "hazardous" for health and was described as the "worst in two decades".
Anumita Roychowdhury, Executive Director, Centre for Science and Environment The civic bodies have a strong presence in management of waste, construction, demolition, movement of commercial vehicles and landfills, which play a crucial role in pollution.
She said pollution should have been acknowledged more strongly in the political manifestos as it is a guiding framework for future action for the party that is voted to power.
AAP, which had come up with the odd-even number vehicular movement policy to control pollution in the city, has spoken of a "Clean Delhi", but has clearly ignored Green Delhi. The BJP manifesto only says it will plant more trees to reduce pollution.
Faiyaz A Khudsar, scientist in-charge of Yamuna Biodiversity Park (YBP) Planting more trees is not enough. Consider planting specific trees which can improve the environment in a better way.
Khudsar said that political parties should have highlighted the ‘Clean Delhi’ push along with a ‘Green Delhi’ motto because trees and plants play a major role in reducing air pollution, controlling dust and microbes.
As all parties have completely ignored water pollution in their manifestos, Khudsar said that without cleaning the Yamuna, the capital's lifeline, and other water bodies, the city cannot improve.
"The river is a life-supporting system," he said, adding that the parties should have a "clear agenda" about ensuring that polluted drain water does not flow into the Yamuna.
Garbage Woes Remain Forgotten
The recycling of waste products is entirely the responsibility of the civic bodies, Bhure Lal, Chairperson of the Environment Pollution Control Authority (EPCA), stated.
Lal said parties should have highlighted how they intend to undertake waste management.
Bhure Lal Everything can be recycled. How are they going to recycle the waste? These things should have been included in the manifestos.
Roychowdhury said that the MCD should have come up with a strategy for recycling and segregating waste to control the rampant burning of garbage, which is a major cause of air pollution.
"There is a legal ban on waste burning. But due to the lack of a good waste management system, it is difficult to enforce it," Roychowdhury said.
Former Union Environment Minster Jairam Ramesh has said the Congress will ensure closure of all sanitary landfills in Delhi in two years if elected. But the term “pollution” is absent from the party manifesto.
Newly formed political party Swaraj India has promised an "epidemic-free, garbage-free and pollution-free Delhi" if voted to power. But there is hardly any detailing.
A survey conducted by the LocalCircles citizen engagement platform has revealed that a majority of the people want sanitation to be considered the topmost priority in the civic poll. Are the political parties listening?
(This article has been published in an arrangement with IANS.)