Is night-sweeping streets solution to rein in PM10?

The problem of dust particles or PM10 pollutants in the city’s air would not have assumed such scary proportions had the municipal corporation kept their word on replacing early morning sweeping of streets and colony roads with late night operations.

Despite the odd-even car rationing plan, the Arvind Kejriwal’s endeavour to check PM10 levels in the city seem to be suffering a setback partly due to the civic agencies’ reluctance to switch to the international practice of night sweeping.

The city appears to be paying a heavy price for municipal corporations’ failure to fulfill their assurance on the issue of night sweeping given to the Delhi High Court in February 2010.

The municipal corporation which serve almost 98 per cent of the population in the city has failed to expand nigh sweeping beyond a few commercial areas even after the matter was repeatedly raised by petitioner Ravinder Raj before Justice S N Dhingra as a part of writ petition number 5851/1998.

As a result, dust clouds build up in colonies as the sanitation workers use bamboo attached brooms to sweep roads and collect road side trash at 5 am.

Civic sanitaion department sources said “Even the 46 commercial areas of night sweeping which the MCD showcased before the High Court are not being cleaned at night now.”

“Not only do the sanitation workers themselves suffer from the dust during sweeping, school kids and office goers also are exposed to dust clouds due to archaic methods of street sweeping,” Rajender Mewati, a sanitation union leader, expressed.

While the MCD has slipped on the issue of night sweeping, in contrast, the New Delhi Municipal Council has stuck to the practice and the benefits are visible in the New Delhi area, he said, adding a large number of civic sanitation workers suffer from respiratory diseases.

At present, mechanised cleaning of wide roads is done only by the Public Works Department  – the practice was popularised ahead of the 2010 Commenwealth Games. From April 1, the Kejriwal government has also promised a big push for vacuum cleaning on more roads.

Petitioner Ravinder Raj’s fight for night sweeping started in 1998. In 2010, he even filed a contempt petition against the civic agencies for disobeying an order dated  April 25, 2003 passed by the High Court.

On February 16, 2010, the MCD filed an affidavit saying that the suggestions made by the petitioner were being adopted phase-wise and night sweeping was being done in 46 areas.

However, night sweeping was not taken up enthusiastically thereafter with the babus coming up with excuses like safety concerns for women sanitation workers and lack of funds to hire new male contract employees to pursue night sweeping.

During the odd-even drive, the Delhi government has admitted facing problems in keeping PM10 pollutants under check.

On Thursday, the government admitted PM10 levels in central and other parts of Delhi, which were not bordering any state were higher than PM2.5.

“Primary source of PM10 air pollution at this time of the year is the dust, arising from various sources, including construction material, burning of leaves and other kinds of waste in the open and wind blown dust,” said a statement.

“It is clear that levels of PM10 can be brought down only if NCR towns take proactive steps to reduce sources of air pollution in their respective areas,” it said.

According to Delhi Pollution Control Committee data, between January 1-5, PM10 levels in many parts of south and east parts of the city were over 900 micrograms per cubic metre against a safe limit of 100 micrograms per cubic metre.

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