MCD Elections: Fight against pollution not major for political parties?

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Smog around India Gate in Delhi
Smog around India Gate in Delhi

New Delhi : 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), Congress and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP).

The AAP runs the Delhi government but doesn't have control over three municipal corporations which have been under BJP control for the last 10 years. 

All three parties have promised closure of sanitary 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. 

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal has promised to make the city clean and garbage-free if the 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 pall 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". 

"The civic bodies have strong presence in management of waste, construction, demolition, movement of commercial vehicles, landfill which play crucial role in pollution," Centre for Science and Environment Executive Director Anumita Roychowdhury told IANS.

She said pollution should have been acknowledged more strongly in the political manifestos as it is guiding framework for future action for the party that is voted to power. 

The 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.

"Planting more trees is not enough. Consider planting specific trees which can improve environment in a better way," Faiyaz A. Khudsar, the scientist in-charge of the Yamuna Biodiversity Park (YBP), told IANS.

Khudsar said that political parties should have highlighted Clean Delhi with Green Delhi because trees and plants play a major role in reducing air pollution, controlling dust and other 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. 

The recycling of waste products is entirely the responsibility of the civic bodies, Chairperson of the Environment Pollution Control Authority (EPCA), Bhure Lal, opined. 

Lal said parties should have highlighted how they intend to undertake waste management. "Everything can be recycled. How are they going to recycle the waste? These things should have been included in the manifestos," he said. 

Roychowdhury said that MCD should have come up with a strategy for recycling and segregating waste to control rampant burning of garbage that is a major cause of air pollution. 

"There is a legal ban in waste burning. But due to 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 party will ensure closure of all sanitary landfills in Delhi in two years if elected to power. 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 in the civic polls later this month. 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.