The National Clean Air Plan identifies 131 Indian cities that have failed to meet the national standards. Many are doing important things to get off this list. Lucknow has managed road dust with paving and Ghaziabad monitors road repairs. Delhi, the world’s most polluted city, has just announced it will set up 100 construction and demolition waste (malba) plants across the city, thanks to the Municipal Corporation of Delhi. The best part of this will be that residents can simply make a call for a pick up.
We know managing malba is an air pollution abatement tactic. It is one of the most important steps the Delhi government has taken till date, and likely to be far more impactful than the futile smog towers and spraying that we have seen this far. Being able to remove malba, is also important in many other ways: illegally dumped malba is an endless pollutant, making it impossible to breathe easy for years. It also makes it impossible for anything to grow around it, devastating the soil. We know also that debris comes from old bricks and cement, all of which comes from mud and sand, including from illegally mined river banks. Recycling it, even at the lowest level, saves resources and protects the planet.
The challenge now is to ensure all the malba generated is sent here and that the plants break even financially, which requires widespread public uptake. It’s uphill, but doable. It’s time Delhi also sets up a few great models for the rest of the country.
Bharati Chaturvedi is an environmentalist and writer. She is the founder and director of Chintan Environmental Research and Action Group.