Clean Air in Delhi: How can we do it together? Suggestions and Solutions from the Ninth IGEP Dialogue

02 April 2015, GIZ India office, 21 Jorbagh, New Delhi

The Indo-German Environment Partnership programme organises dialogues, called the IGEP Dialogues, on a wide range of topics focussed on sustainable development and environment protection. The series of dialogues is meant to provide a space for sharing ideas and opinions, and for discussions between participants from different backgrounds – ministries, academia, NGOs, corporate, embassies, political foundations, etc., among others.

The ninth dialogue in this series was held on the topic “Clean Air in Delhi: How can we do it together?” Prof. James K. Boyce, Department of Economics & Political Economy Research Institute, University of Massachusetts (USA) and Mr. Paritosh Tyagi, Former Chairman, Central Pollution Control Board and Chairman, IDC Foundation, New Delhi were the key speakers of the dialogue.

Dr. Boyce opened his talk by explaining the concept of carbon rent, as it applies to global climate change negotiations. He drew upon the same analogy to address equity concerns about access to clean air. He cited examples from different sectors to illustrate how a cap and dividend policy might prove to be effective in addressing the twin challenges of pollution and equity. It brings down pollution levels by putting a cap on either direct emissions or drivers of emissions, and the money collected from auctioning or selling the certificates is distributed equally to all residents in the area, thus making the solution equitable. Dr. Boyce concluded by suggesting such a cap and dividend policy for private vehicles in Delhi on the lines of the Singapore vehicle licence policy, may enable effective addressing of air pollution issues in the city. According to some preliminary estimates, the money would amount to an annual dividend payment of Rs. 5,000 per person. He stressed that raising public awareness was critical, and that the media could play a vital role in this.

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Mr. Tyagi spoke about environmental regulations and issues about standard setting and monitoring in air pollution management in India. Unlike water pollution where there is an easy and relatively affordable technological fix in the form of water purifiers, air pollution is more diffused and needs to be addressed at several levels. Although standard setting and guidelines by the Central Pollution Control Board have evolved with rising economic activity, monitoring and enforcement have not kept pace. He acknowledged the cap and dividend idea; however, he also raised caution regarding administrative feasibility in implementing such a scheme. He opined that strong political will could lead the way in putting in place stringent measures to combat air pollution. Mr. Tyagi concluded by suggesting some solutions based on his experience – a scheme to harness solar energy by putting panels on car roofs and an innovative house-swapping initiative where home owners can trade houses among themselves based on the proximity to their work places.

A lively interaction with the audience followed, after both the speakers had finished their deliberations. Some of the important issues that were raised and discussed were trans-boundary movement of pollutants, especially pollution from biomass burning in neighbouring states, role of vested interest groups, such as the auto industry, lack of monitoring infrastructure, increasing public awareness regarding pollution through more effective data dissemination strategies, and people’s ambitions of income and social status and how that conflicts with certain pollution management strategies such as putting a cap on vehicular licences.

The event was attended by representatives of leading global NGOs, UN and other multilateral organisations, private entrepreneurs, journalists, and students of Delhi University, Jawaharlal Nehru University and IIT Delhi.

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