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Delhi to go for Mechanical Cleaning of Roads to Stem Alarming Dust and Air Pollution

Delhi pollution is alarmingly rising above the levels of Beijing and to fight it on a war-footing, the Delhi government has decided to go for mechanical cleaning of roads first and then plant grass on either side of the road.

Dust, accounting for 38% of air pollution, is a major concern in the national capital and during winters it reaches the worst levels triggering a ban on all diesel vehicles which are 10 years old or aboveby the National Green Tribunal recently. It has also asked the authorities to control completely the dust coming from construction sites in the city.

Nearly 78% of the air pollution is caused by vehicles, out of which 38% is by dust and mechanical cleaning can reduce it to 27%, said the officials.

Prompted by the ban and uproar over the rising level of air pollution, the Delhi government’s PWD is targeting cleaning roads first. “We have prepared a plan to decrease air pollution, according to which we will make all 1,200 km roads of Public Works Department dust-free by mechanical cleaning. In the next three months, mechanical cleaning of PWD’s roads will begin,” said PWD minister Satyender Jain.

In another move, planting grass on either side of the roads is under consideration. Since dust remains suspended in the air for a longer time during the day owing to continuous movement of vehicles, “a permanent solution would be to plant grass along roads,” said the minister. He also said the repairing all broken footpaths would taken up soon.

In a recent research, jointly conducted by the University of Birmingham (Britain), the Indian Institute of Technology – Delhi, the Central Road Research Institute (India), and the Desert Research Institute (US), it was revealed that the particles are associated with respiratory diseases such as asthma and bronchitis, which cause inflammation and lead to cardiovascular diseases.

The researchers collected air samples between December 2013 and January 2014, adjacent to a heavy traffic site on Mathura Road, nearer to industrial belt with high emissions.

“It was found that for average 12 hours…PM 2.5, fine particles, which is less than 2.5 micrometers in diameter, concentrations in winter were significantly higher than the 24-hour National Ambient Air Quality Standard in India,” said the report.

“Harmful components including lead, zinc and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons were found to be present in very high concentrations during winter season, said the report.

The quantitative analysis showed that sources of particulate matter include soil, dust and emissions from vehicles, wood, coal and waste burning.

“Dust and soil level in the air increase in summer when temperatures are high with less rainfall. However, in winter season, when people use wood and other substances for heating, low temperature accompanied with little or no wind can lead to building-up of pollutants in the atmosphere,” said the report.

In another revelation, global climate awareness agency Greenpeace, citing the Central Pollution Control Board of India said Delhi’s average pollution at PM2.5 level in 2013 as 153μg/m3, based on hourly measurements at 6 different stations was alarmingly very high.

“This is 15 times the World Health Organization guideline and 3.8 times the national standard,” it said. Delhi’s average is also 80 percent higher than the average in Beijing.

However, Delhi lags behind Beijing in terms of monitoring stations. While Beijing has continuously monitoring stations for all days in a year, Delhi monitoring stations run by Delhi Pollution control Committee (DPCC) had no data for 56 days in the year 2014, it pointed out.

Based on the available data for PM2.5 from three locations: R.K.Puram, Mandir Marg and Punjabi Bagh,, Greenpeace has made the health risk estimations for each of these areas in Delhi and have made comparisons with the average pollution levels for Beijing.

These estimates, based on the methodology of the Global Burden of Disease Study, 2010, show an increased risk in lung cancer, chronic respiratory diseases and Ischaemic heart disease in these areas, several times higher than that of Beijing, it said.

The Greenpeace study, published in the Atmospheric Pollution Research Journal, on air pollution and atmospheric processes, said Delhi faces the highest health risks from air pollution.

Table showing the increased health risks in the NCR Area between 2000-2010:

YEAR 2000 2010
Total Mortality 11,394 18,229
Cardiovascular Mortality 3912 6374
Respiratory Moratality 1697 2701
Hospital Admission due to Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease 16,253 26,525


  1. Rakesh Vaisoha

    If you pay close attention to the job of sweeping being done, you’ll see why in spite of daily cleaning of roads the streets remain dirty. The sweepers knowingly do not take away the roadside dust because their supervisors do not care and mark their presence from the broom marks left behind in the dust left on the roadside. Also, the sweepers take the dust from one side of the road to the other side so that the dust fills up the wear holes on the roads and there is no one to teach the sweepers how and why the dust should be disposed. People from the public spit and dirty the roads on their way and the same dust rises up with the passing traffic to settle finely into buildings and spread the bacterium which causes breathing related problems to all vulnerable people. This is a problem which is cumulative until nature brings relief by way of rains and flushing the drains. There is a continuing apathy because everyone has someone else to blame. No laws and import of technology can help unless there is a change brought about in the people’s attitude. Let us devise a wholesome combination of attitude and public civic sense along with removal of drudgery ridden cleaning methods.

  2. Excellent Idea!!


  4. Alternatively,cheaper way to solve the problem would be to metal the roads all the way till the footpath. To save materials, most of the contractors leave a foot long stretch between footpath and the main road which creates all those dusty air in dry season and puddles during rainy season. All these machinery they talk about are useless when you have this gap which cannot be cleaned. Having footpaths at a slightly raised platform such as in developed countries will work wonders in no time. Grass is high maintenance in India and better alternative would be small shrubs-I think.

  5. I can foresee one thing. After millions are spent (other way of saying that millions are pocketed), and imported grass from Switerland are planted, MCD will dig up the roads in a few months and then forget to cover them up for years. Things will again come full circle with another planned mechanical cleaning (and of xourse millions “spent” again). So true to our culture of country.

  6. Bengaluru City urgently needs such a scheme. You can see piles garbage everywhere on the streets, foot paths and vacant spaces. Politicians and bureaucrats are idealess to put an end to this menace. One can see the municipal workers mannualy cleaning the streets with broom sticks, physically and putting it into baskets and loading the same on the lorry. The lorry will move on spilling over the garbage all the way. Instead of this age old method why can’t they think of using vacum cleaning technology wherein big machine can suck the dust and garbage on the streets and foot paths. The machine can contain the sucked filth and empty it at designated places. This can put and to the pollution problem to a large extent.(See Video on this site)

  7. Excellent idea, well done

  8. To be done for all the cities in India. Why to aspire to be better than Beijing. Try to be the best in the world.

  9. The same act should be implemented in all the cities in the country. The Govt. should ensure that all the apartments have trees planted in the open space. Stop cutting the trees.

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