Ever since its introduction as mass transport, Delhi Metro services have been catering in fighting against growing air pollution. In fact, Delhi Metro has always been at the forefront of the air pollution game by offering commuters a safe, clean and secure public transportation alternative by increasing their last mile connectivity with feeder buses. Very recently, DMRC announced that the existing fleet would be replaced by low floor air-conditioned electric buses. In addition to that, to increase awareness about air quality, a number of AQI display boards have been installed on various metro stations over the past few years. The challenge is to ensure that these boards are placed in optimal position and in-commuters line of sight.
Previously, a petition was filed by Leading Purpose Campaigns under the Right To Information Act revealed there are 23 air quality display boards on the Violet Line (line 6) of the Delhi Metro. These boards display data disseminated by the Central Pollution Control Board. Help Delhi Breathe, a campaign by Purpose and its partner, Haiyya, a grassroots mobilization organization, seek to raise awareness among students by educating them on how to read AQI boards, what the data on them mean, and the importance of air quality.
With this information, a group of young volunteers decided to visit all the stations on the Violet line to check on Air Quality Index displays. Delhi Metro Rail Corporation has done a commendable job in ensuring infrastructure to increase public awareness of air quality. However, there is a need to improve the visibility of displays and commuter appreciation.
No doubt, most people are not at all clear about what the Air Quality Index is, let alone what the AQI board looks like. “While we were visiting different stations, we asked Metro staff and passengers whether they had seen an AQI display board. Most of us them answered no and others asked us what an AQI Board is” Anshu Jha, a Haiyya volunteer reported.
The findings of the report revealed that there were over 25 display boards where AQI information was displayed. In fact, stations like Mohan Estate and Badarpur had more than one display boards. However, seven boards were out of order and 13 boards featured advertisements covering three-fourths of the screen. Central Secretariat station had better responses from commuters as it also had a health advisory displayed along with AQI levels.
A recent survey conducted by United Resident’s Joint Action (URJA), revealed that 93 percent of Delhi residents do not understand what Air Quality Index means.
The survey reinforced this data and concluded that to enable citizens to take the necessary action to protect themselves, issuing health advisories is a must, to make AQI levels comprehensible to commuters.
“The installation of AQI boards at metro stations is a great initiative by the DMRC. From various surveys and campaigns, we have come to know that people are still not able to fully grasp what Air Quality Index and PM 2.5 levels mean in the current format. We need health advisories to be included on all the digital boards. The ultimate target is to help commuters comprehend the information, and to warn vulnerable groups to opt protective measures.” Navdha Malhotra, Senior Campaigner, Help Delhi Breathe.
“ With the help of this new and active young generation, we hope to see further improvements to the DMRC AQI boards and in raising awareness about the issue. Building awareness is the first step in tackling the larger issue of air pollution in Delhi .” Alok Ranjan, Grassroots Campaigner, Haiyya.