Congested roads are increasing the pollution load, an analysis by the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) shows. It estimates that congestion on Delhi roads is increasing seven per cent annually as about 537 cars and 1,158 two-wheelers are added every day on these roads, the organisation estimates.

With almost no difference in peak and non-peak traffic, the high burden of vehicles on 13 arterial roads leaves the average maximum speeds at which traffic flows at a measly 26 km per hour (27 km/hr in non-peak hours), even as the regulated speed is 40-55 km/hr.

CSE used Google Map to chart traffic movement on 13 roads across the national Capital.

At a time when India, and particularly Delhi, have come under the spotlight for high air pollution, which is severely impacted by vehicular pollution, high congestion is a tangible concern. Correlating high-traffic periods with the level nitrogen dioxide (NO2) in the air, CSE has found that as more vehicles come on to the roads, reducing average speed, pollution levels increase significantly.

“CPCB’s (Central Pollution Control Board) real time monitoring data for NO2 from Anand Vihar, RK Puram, Mandir Marg and Punjabi Bagh shows that when the average morning peak speed of 28 km/hr drops to 25 km/hr in the evening, NO2 levels increase from 68 microgramme/cubic metre to 94 microgramme/cubic metre — an increase of 38 per cent. This can get worse during winter when inversion builds up during evening,” CSE said in its analysis.

Density of vehicles

With roads making up nearly 22 per cent of the city’s geographical area — higher than any other metro city — space for vehicles is not the problem, sheer pressure of private vehicles is.

Anumita Roychowdhury, Executive Director (Research and Advocacy) and Head of air pollution and clean transportation programme, CSE, said, “This is an inevitable consequence of explosive and unrestrained vehicle numbers that have crossed the 10-million mark in 2017. The numbers are further inflated by daily influx of vehicles from outside Delhi. With a further drop in car prices under GST, car congestion will only grow.”

While addressing a Facebook Live chat, Chowdhury said, “There is no policy recognition for the fact that you can moderate the density of vehicles. The traditional understanding is that if you have more vehicles, you need more roads. But, the more road space you create, the more traffic you attract.”

She said that the government needs to increase the people-carrying capacity, and not the vehicle-carrying capacity, of the existing roads with efficient use of and increase in public transportation, increasing door-to-door connectivity and discouraging the use of private vehicles with high road tax and parking charges and introduction of congestion tax on private cars.