Delhi’s Air Pollution Can End, By Learning From Beijing

Editor: Rahul Sanpui

Camera: Shiv Kumar Maurya

There's many apocalyptic stories about Delhi's pollution. But this isn't one of them. Instead, it's about how fierce intent can drive any city to bring down its pollution levels. Case in point: Beijing.

In just 20 years, Beijing has turned around its pollution statistics, like no other city of the world has. What was once the world's number 1 most polluted city, has now come down to the 122nd most polluted city in the world, with an average PM 2.5 of below 50.

Here's how Beijing did it.

1. By Cutting Coal

America may love the song Call Me Maybe, but Beijing operates more to the tune of Coal Me Maybe. Coal contributed 60% to the levels of PM 2.5. So Beijing cut down its coal consumption by 50% between 2013 and 2018.

2. Controlling The Number of New Cars

Cars can 'drive' pollution levels up, as though they were in the fifth gear. Beijing controls the number of new cars that people can buy. In 2018, for instance, the quota for new cars in Beijing was just 1 lac cars annually.

Delhi's show off culture might disapprove.

3. Setting Aggressive Targets

Not only did Beijing set really aggressive targets, it also strictly monitored them. In 2017, China fined 18000 companies for air pollution, with fines totalling (US$132.2 million). And unlike India, the cost of disobeying a law is hugeeeeee in China.

To be sure, no one is saying that punitive action is the best, but a strong intent and decades worth of effort is something we can definitely learn from Beijing. Rather than implementing knee-jerk reactions, we need to implement things more holistically.

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