Tracking Delhi’s roadmap to tackle climate change

Rapid urbanisation and concretisation has contributed to Delhi's decline, but there are a host of projects that might help.

WrittenBy:Sashikala VP and Shaunak Ghosh
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In a new climate report published by the United Nations, which comprises 7,000 studies by 100 international climate experts, it has been discussed how badly climate change has affected the natural resources around the globe. 

The report indicates temperatures in oceans rising, the icebergs and glaciers melting, resulting in less heat being absorbed by the water bodies, and causing mass flooding in all over the world by 2050.

The experts have termed this as the worst climate of the world in history, and also warned that the existence of mankind is at stake. 

But with all the talk and warnings on global warming, and how it is taking a toll on the world, what changes has Delhi experienced in its climate in the past few years?

Mahesh Palawat, Vice President, Climate Change and Meteorology at Skymet Weather Services, says that like places all over the world, Delhi too is experiencing climate change due to global warming. “The sea levels are increasing and therefore moisture in air is increasing all over India including Delhi, and thus more heat is getting trapped in the air, leading to rise in temperatures,” he explains.

Palawat says that if we take a closer look, heat waves have been on the increase every year and this is an occurrence for the past 19 years as opposed to earlier, when it was not the case. This year the maximum temperatures reached a record high of 48 degrees Celsius — the highest ever temperature recorded in Delhi.

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The loss of green cover means less protection from the effects of global warming.

Similarly, during the winters, there are instances of cold waves across the city for the past few years. Palawat agrees that the Capital did experience chilling winters even earlier, but now temperatures are dropping to as low as 2-3 degrees Celsius, which is quite lower than what the normal winter temperatures, which is around 10 degrees Celsius.

He also raises concerns about the fact that global warming is also taking a toll on the duration of the seasons. The summers are now longer and winters are shorter. “Earlier we used to take out our woollens by the end of October and now winter doesn’t arrive till the end of November,” says Palawat, adding that winter may make a late entry this year also.

The most concerning factor, Palawat says, is the shift in the amount and pattern of rainfall that the city receives down the years. “The average annual monsoon rainfall is around 600 mm, but for the past decade this number has decreased, sometimes even going down by 50 per cent”, he says, adding that the number of rainy days in the city has also decreased in the last 10 years.

The effects of this scarce rainfall, as described by environmental activist Vikrant Tongad, is seen in the fact that many lakes in the city, 300 according to a report by NGO Mission Paani, have dried up. “Lesser and lesser rainfall added to the fact that temperatures are ever-increasing and has contributed to more and more lakes and water bodies vanishing from the city,” adds Tongad. This, in turn, has also resulted in the depletion of groundwater levels in the city, leading to severe crisis of drinking water.

Palawat says that the pattern of rainfall in the city has also changed. “Earlier there used to be continuous spells of short rainfall for two-three days. Now, the intensity of rainfall is high, but it lasts for not more than three hours,” he infers. This, along with increased series of depressions and frequent thunder and lightning strikes in the city, contributes to what Palawat terms as natural anomalies. “These are extremely harmful for the environment, and in future can lead to natural disasters in the city,” he adds.

If these intense rainfall spells for two-three hours continues to increase in the coming years, Palawat says that it can lead to a Mumbai like flood situation as the Yamuna water may overflow into the city.

So, the question remains as to how has Delhi contributed to this global problem of climate change. According to Dwarka-based environmental activist V Selvarajan, one of the major factors that have contributed to the decline in the climate of the city is the rapid urbanisation and concretisation of natural spaces inside the city like the Aravalli range areas.

“Just a few days ago, a large number of trees were felled here in Dwarka for the construction of the Dwarka expressway. If we wipe out all our green cover, there will be nothing to protect us from the ill effects of global warming,” says Serlvarajan, concerned.

“Also, Delhi has a large number of vehicular population which leads to emission of more greenhouse gases which affect the atmosphere,” he asserts. In fact, Delhi has a vehicular population of 1.1 crores, the largest in any city of India, so the amount of emission is huge.

So, how can we prevent the rapid climate change that is happening in the city?

“Plant more trees, and use public transport and carpool rides instead of travelling by your own car,”, advises Selvarajan.    

(Au: Shaunak Ghosh)

What the Delhi government has done and hopefully will do

The “Fridays For Future” protest has in some ways only now awakened people to the reality that is climate change. Initiated by a 16-year-old activist, Greta Thunberg, it has mobilised people, especially the younger generation to strike for what is at a critical stage — our environment. 

These protests even hit Delhi and may continue to be held, but the focus here on is the Delhi government and its actions to fight climate change. 

UN Habitat, tells us exactly why accountability of cities like Delhi is important. With cities consuming 78 per cent of the world’s energy and produce more than 60 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions, where else must we look to find a solution? 

While Delhi is infamous for many a criminal activity, it has also become the most polluted city on the earth. And pollution has a direct consequence on climate change. The Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies points out that air pollution drives up carbon dioxide emissions with the extraction and burning of fossil fuels. 

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Young people are now striking for the environment.

So, what has the Arvind Kejriwal-led Aam Aadmi Party done for combating this? The chief minister claims that the pollution levels in the city have dropped by 25 per cent. He even went as far as to say that it is the only city to see pollution levels going down, but accepting that a lot more has to be done. 

For this, Delhi — like other states and Union Territories — has a State Climate Change Action Plan (SAPCC), under the National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC). Reportedly the last to submit its plan, it chalks out the initiatives and plans of the Delhi government under six major planks. 

Here we look at ‘initiatives by Delhi government’ marked out in the action plan. The plan is in the process of revision — according to Anwar Ali Khan, nodal officer of climate change for the Delhi government — as per revised guidelines issued by MoEF Govt of India to incorporate INDC’s of India in Paris Agreement.

Solar Power

What the plan says: Solar energy has a lot of potential in Delhi to reduce the dependence on coal-fired electricity and hence contribute to a reduction in greenhouse gases. 

Progress cited:

– Solar power policy is cleared by Delhi Government.  The policy recommends the installation of 1 GW (1,000 Mega Watts) solar power capacity in Delhi by the year 2020.

– Rooftop solar PV plants installed in four government schools of 40 kWp each and four government hospitals of 100 kWp each.

What more: 

Last year, 21 schools were fitted with solar panels on a pilot basis. Plans for 100 Delhi government schools to be fitted with solar panels, which may go further up to 500 more schools, were announced in June this year. 

Enhanced Energy Efficiency

What the plan says: The Energy Conservation Act of 2001 provides a legal mandate for the implementation of energy efficiency mandates. 

Progress cited:

– Increasing number of CNG buses in Delhi Transport Corporation (DTC) fleet on the roads. 

– Restrictions on vehicle use by using odd/even formula. 

– Ban on 15-year-old commercial vehicles, 10-year-old diesel vehicles, entry of trucks.

– A 16-MW Waste-to-Energy plant at Okhla implemented by Jindal Ecopolis for utilising 1950 TPD of Municipal Solid Waste.

– 12-MW Waste-to-Energy Plant at Ghazipur is on trial run by East Delhi Waste Processing Limited (EDWPCL) for utilising 1300 TPD for Municipal Solid Waste. 

– 24-MW Waste-to-Energy Plant at Narela, Bawana is under trial run by Delhi MSW Solutions (DMSWSL) for utilising 3,000 TPD waste.

– Increased green cover of Delhi up to 20.22 per cent.

What more: 

The DTC is going to float tender for 300 electric buses. 

– Plans to reintroduced odd-even scheme this winter to combat air pollution 

– Okhla Waste to Energy (WTE) plant received a show-cause notice from the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) earlier this year for violations.

 – A news report in August says mountain of garbage at the Ghazipur landfill has gone from 13 million metric tonnes to 14 mmt. 

Sustainable Habitat

What the plan says: To make habitat sustainable through improvements in energy efficiency in buildings, management of solid waste and modal shift to public transport. 

Progress cited: 

– The star rating of electrical equipment’s which shows energy-efficient appliances and technology for the purpose.

– Ongoing action plan with timeline has been prepared to control Air Pollution in Delhi.

What more:

In preparation for the toxicity that comes through each year in the winter, CM Kejriwal has announced a seven-point Parali Pradushan Action Plan. This includes pollution masks, which don’t combat the problem but only give temporary relief. For Diwali, the government plans on having a Community Diwali Laser Show; Hotspot Control; and Dust Control.

Mission for Green India

What the plan says: Recognising the importance of the green cover, Delhi has green cover increasing from 26 sq km to 300 sq km in 15 years, which is about 20.22 per cent of the area of Delhi. This is proposed to be increased to 25 per cent by 2030.

Progress cited:

Delhi has nearly 20,000 small/medium/big parks and gardens, 42 city forests in different locations in the city, five Ridge areas, six bio-diversity parks, restored water bodies in flood plains and developed other greens.

What more: 

– An NGO moved the National Green Tribunal in August, alleging that the Delhi government has given permission to cut 3,000 trees and transplant another 3,500 trees for the Dwarka Expressway Package II, without assessing the survival rate of the transplanted trees

– Tree Challenge, with home delivery of plants and appointment of “environment marshals”, announced in September. 

Water Mission

What the plan says: Developing a framework to optimise water use by increasing efficiency by 20 per cent through regulatory mechanisms with differential entitlements and pricing. New strategies need to be tried out to conserve water and use wastewater efficiently since 80 per cent of raw water is wastewater.

Progress cited:

– Construction of recycling plants at 4 WTPs

– Regular water quality monitoring is carried out by DPCC at 24 drains, nine locations along Yamuna, water Bodies/ponds, 21 STPs and 2 mini STPs, 13 CETPs monitored for 17 parameters based on inlet and outlet, 10 WTPs, groundwater (34 locations).

– Steps taken for reducing water consumption, quality, monitoring and regulatory measures for misuse and theft

What more:

– Pilot project for natural water storage on the Yamuna floodplain started in August of this year.

– Many unauthorised colonies still depend on borewells for water, sucking up the underground water of Delhi. 

– The Delhi Jal Board in December of 2018 approved a ₹376-crore plan to rejuvenate 159 waterbodies and another ₹77-crore project for creation of two lakes in order to aid groundwater recharge.

Mission for Strategic Knowledge

What the plan says: Strategic Knowledge Mission aims to identify challenges of climate change by ensuring focused research. 

Progress cited:

– R&D project for production and use of biofuels from waste oil.

– About 2,000 eco-clubs have been selected in schools and colleges for creating environmental awareness and action-oriented activities involving students and teachers.

– Awareness campaign on “Greening Delhi”, “Say Yes to Eco-friendly Bags”, “Waste minimisation”, amongst others.

– Project to convert organic waste generated in Delhi Secretariat into biofuel (based on BARC technology) has been set up.

What more: 

– Dr Sabat, a consultant with the Department of Environment in the Delhi government, says that the government has taken positive steps to combat climate change but people’s participation is imperative to have any impact. They are working with eco-clubs, assisting NGOs, other than raising awareness in schools and colleges. 

– Students of all schools from Class 6 onwards to be roped in as “awareness ambassadors” as a part of “Jal Shakti Abhiyan”.

Energy Consumption Profile

What the plan says: This chapter details out the total energy consumption for Delhi. The idea is to identify the total energy consumption from different energy sources in the city and the sector-wise distribution of energy consumption amongst various sectors like: Residential, Commercial, Industrial and Municipal. 

Progress cited:

– Compulsory use of CNG in all the commercial vehicles plying on the roads of Delhi.

– As on March 31, 2018, 5,472 LED lights have been installed and energised. Street Lighting Energy Efficiency project will reduce electricity consumption by improving street lighting efficiency in the municipal street lighting services.

What more: 

– This year Delhi’s electricity demand touched an all-time high of 7,241 megawatt (MW), breaking the previous record of 7,016 MW recorded on July 10, 2018. 

– Out of 1,542 industries in Delhi, 1,457 industries have been converted into CNG-powered ones. 

– The Delhi government has decided to “officially” shut down the Rajghat thermal power plant and use its land to develop a 5,000 KW solar park.  

(Au: Sashikala VP)


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