Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar has said New Delhi, which in recent years earned the tag of one of the world's most polluted cities along with Beijing, had more "good air days" this year as a result of numerous measures initiated by the government.
"Goods days have increased and bad days have reduced in Delhi's pollution status," said Javadekar, who attended the 29th BASIC (Brazil, South Africa, India and China) ministers' meeting here on Saturday.
"The air quality improved after various measures were initiated by the government in the National Capital Region (NCR) since 2014," the minister told Indian media persons on Saturday.
Javadekar, who held talks with his Chinese counterpart LI Ganjie, said China is also combating a serious pollution problem, especially in Beijing.
"China is learning from India. He (LI) asked how we dealt with air pollution this year. It is a continuous war, (with) continuous new innovations plus measures," he said.
He said cooperation between Delhi and Beijing in combating pollution will be explored as the two are already declared "sister cities".
Javadekar listed various measures initiated by the government to combat pollution, starting with the launching of air quality index by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Currently, Delhi-NCR has 130 air quality monitoring stations, he said.
The quest for solutions started with the acceptance of the pollution problem, he said.
After identifying vehicles as the chief pollutant, the government speedily built Rs 1,700-crore eastern and western peripheral highways which enabled about 60,000 heavy trucks going to other cities to avoid the national capital.
"We have leapfrogged from Bharat Stage (BS) 4 to BS 6 in implementing the emission standards for vehicles. From April, all new vehicles will be Euro 6 or BS 6 compliant," he said, adding that Rs 60,000 crore investment has been made in oil refining.
The Delhi Metro has helped combat pollution as lakhs of people travel in it daily, reducing stress on vehicular traffic, the minister said.
The government is incentivising electrical vehicles including cars, buses and e-rickshaws all over the country, he said.
All polluting industries in Delhi have been closed and emission of the ones operating are being closely monitored, he said.
The government has completed the implementation of "Zigzag" technology for brick kilns. Now, more than 3,000 brick kilns are using the Zigzag technology in NCR, he said.
The Zigzag kilns are an improvement over traditional chimney kilns. The zigzag airflow considerably improves the combustion of fuel and heat transfer.
On stubble burning, the minister said about Rs 12,000 crore was sanctioned last year for farmers to get provisions for mulching, he said.
Stubble burning is the intentional burning of straw stubble that remains after grains, like paddy, wheat among others, have been harvested.
Also this Diwali, the government has cleared green crackers to prevent pollution, he said.
He said unlike Delhi other cities in the country are not so badly impacted by the pollution because of access to the coast and better air circulation.
Javadekar said the country is on target to achieve the energy intensity by 25 to 30 per cent set earlier.
The intensity of the emissions is going down as well, he said. "We will increase our green cover. We will have 40 per cent capacity of renewable and 40 per cent in the energy mix".
"We are on target in each case. Energy intensity is already reduced by 21 per cent because we are using modern and efficient technology", he said.
Industrial pollution is down because most industries have reorganised to reduce energy consumption, Javadekar said.
"Emissions also from each industry is much less compared to 10 years ago because of increased emission norms," he said.
"As far as renewables are concerned, Modi-ji declared 175 GW target, which surprised the world, as it is the largest target in the world," he said.
Referring to the renewable mix, he said solar power would be 30 GW and wind is 40 GW.
Solar projects are being built over the irrigation and drinking water canals while almost all hills have been mapped for wind power generation.
On hydropower, he referred to the government's green light to Dibang hydropower project in Arunachal Pradesh and Subanshre water project in the Northeast.
All renewables including rooftop solar connections are being integrated into the grid.
Green cover in the country has increased by 13,000 sq km since 2014 particularly outside the forest area, he said.
In fact, India and China have topped the world in increasing green cover and Prime Minister Modi shared a NASA photo with Chinese President Xi Jinping during their recent second informal summit at Mamallapuram, Indian Ambassador to China Vikram Misri, who was with Javadekar, said.
The growth of the green cover was triggered by over 80 million gas connections given since the Modi government came to power, reducing pressure on wood being used for cooking, especially in the rural areas, Javadekar said.
He said the green cover expansion is strictly monitored through live satellite feed during the meetings in his ministry rather than based on inspectors' reports.
About Aarey forest protest in Mumbai to construct a railway facility, Javadekar said there were similar issues faced during Delhi metro construction which had numerous stations but it was overcome with the plan to replace one cut tree with five, he said.