Placards, roses at traffic signals on Day 1 of govt campaign against pollution

New Delhi: Dinesh Singh,25, stood at the ITO traffic signal at 8am on Wednesday, with a placard reading, “yudh pradushan ke viruddh” (war against pollution). As vehicles stopped at the red light, Singh signalled them to pull down their window, handed them a rose and urged them to turn-off their vehicle’s ignition while they waited for the light to turn green.

Hundreds of environment marshals like Singh were deployed at 100 traffic signals across the national capital on Wednesday — the first day of Delhi government’s awareness campaign, ‘red light on, gaadi off’ (red light on, ignition off) to reduce levels of vehicular emissions in the national capital.

“We are a team of around 15, manning the intersection. Once the red light goes on, we hold up placards reminding drivers to turn off the ignition of their cars and motorcycles. Most of the people stopping here happily complied to our request,” Singh said.

Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal encouraged people to participate in the campaign and contribute towards bringing the city’s pollution levels down, which tend to spike and reach alarming levels every winter.

“The people of Delhi have achieved a great feat. Last year, they helped reduce pollution levels by 25%. Let us all come together again to fight pollution. Please participate in the ‘red light on, gaadi off’ campaign. War against pollution,” Kejriwal tweeted on Tuesday.

To encourage more and more people to participate in the campaign, Delhi environment minister Gopal Rai also reached the ITO signal to speak to the environment marshals and drivers on the importance of turning the ignition off while waiting at red lights.

“Till now Delhi government and various agencies were involved in the war against pollution, today we are reaching out to two crore(20 million) people of Delhi to participate in this fight,” Rai said.

He said that the fight against pollution can only be won if the government and the citizens come together in taking all the necessary steps needed to control pollution sources.

Government estimates show that if all commuters participate in this campaign across the city, which is a voluntary exercise, then the pollution levels can be reduced by 15-20%.

“This campaign will run till November 15. We have invited all the MPs, MLAs, councillors, trade organisations and private employers to join this campaign. We are also in touch with eco clubs and resident welfare associations (RWAs), which can in turn encourage more people to practice this,” he added.

Chaitali Sinha, a commuter who had stopped at the Tilak Marg signal, said turning off the ignition of vehicles was a behavioural change, and people should stand with the government in their initiative.

“I think Delhiites are not really used to turning ignition off because we live in a climate which is hot and sultry most of the year and it becomes difficult to wait at the signal without the air conditioner. But the winters are the perfect time to do this and one small step can go a long way (in fighting pollution),” Sinha said.

However, there were some who were not convinced about the efficacy of the initiative.

“Instead of inconveniencing people, the government should first do their bit in reducing pollution. Garbage is being burnt openly and illegal industries are operating on the outskirts, and most importantly there is still no solution to stubble burning in the other states. Just one person switching off engine (of his vehicle) for a few seconds is not going to yield any benefits,” said Sudharshan Kaul.

A Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC) official said while ‘idling’, keeping the ignition on while the vehicle is not moving, might not yield immediate results. This is a good practice to follow, which will be beneficial in the long run.

“A lot of factors play a role in bringing down the city’s pollution levels, and the most important at this time of the year is weather. We will not be able to see a visible effect of this campaign immediately but vehicular emission is a primary source of pollution in Delhi-NCR and these are the steps that will help in the long run,” the official said, on the condition of anonymity.

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