A First-Of-Its-Kind Magazine On Environment Which Is For Nature, Of Nature, By Us (RNI No.: UPBIL/2016/66220)

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Anthropogenic activities major contributor

TreeTake is a monthly bilingual colour magazine on environment that is fully committed to serving Mother Nature with well researched, interactive and engaging articles and lots of interesting info.

Anthropogenic activities major contributor

Alas, our indulgence and craving for controlling the forces of the nature is proving a threat for this life saving radical. It seems that continued increase in the methane content of the air, the OH radical is being consumed at a faster rate, which is hazardous...

Anthropogenic activities major contributor


We Asked: Do you think Delhi and NCR suffer from restricted air flow (circulation) because of faulty town planning with the area turning into a well of multi-storey buildings without necessary (open space) respite?  

Delhi and NCR are very much in the news these days, as the area has become a virtual gas chamber. There are blames, counter-blames about the source of pollution, but no one seems to understand the problem and its solution in totality. Let us first consider one basic fact. It is well known that our environment is considered to be made of three imaginary spheres, viz. the atmosphere, the lithosphere and the hydrosphere. And we live at the intersection of these three, i.e. the biosphere. These spheres are so intimately interconnected that if one is disturbed the other gets automatically disturbed. For example, if someone burns a heap of dead grass or dried leaves under our window, we begin to choke with the fumes. In other words, a wrong activity on the lithosphere (the land on which we live) disturbed the atmosphere (the air around us) and we (including all the living being, i.e. the biosphere) were affected. For us, what we see in the sky is our atmosphere. But from an atmospheric scientist’s view, our atmosphere is like a multi-layered cake. There are layers which are as cold as -85 degrees Celsius and others warm enough to burn up the falling meteorites. However, the Earth’s atmosphere is one of the safest places, because of the presence of a hydroxyl radical which burns up all the obnoxious material and maintains a balance for the life to survive on the planet. Alas, our indulgence and craving for controlling the forces of the nature is proving a threat for this life saving radical. It seems that continued increase in the methane content of the air, the OH radical is being consumed at a faster rate, which is hazardous.

Now coming to the main issue of faulty planning and development of Delhi NCR region, no doubt it is one of the causes of the region becoming a gas chamber. But that is not the only reason. There are other congested cities in the world,  for example, Tokyo, Singapore and Bangkok are one of the most densely populated urban complexes with close spaced high-rise buildings. Yet, unlike Delhi-NCR these towns have none to very low pollution.  As I write these lines, I am sitting near the window of an apartment, located in Sukumvit area of Bangkok, on the 8th floor. The attached pictures clearly depict the limited ‘atmospheric space’ with a deep blue sky in-between. The poser by the Editor, made me ponder and I came to the conclusion that it is not merely the faulty urban development, but there are other factors too affecting Delhi-NCR’s air. These factors are:

i.          Natural and

ii.         Anthropogenic

Among the natural factors, the most important is the global climate change. The rain cycle has changed, the winter rains are meagre in Delhi and NCR. However, the air is full of aerosol particles, which have moisture and dust. These particles mixed with winter fog make smog, which reduces the Sunlight and further affects the climate. The suspended smog leads to a gas chamber like conditions. I feel that the climate change etc are around 40% responsible for the situation. The anthropogenic activities are a major contributor to the condition. It is said that the burning of the crop stubble in Punjab is one of the main reasons of smog. The rising smoke travels to Delhi-NCR. In the meanwhile, Diwali festival too adds to the acrid smoke. There are other major anthropogenic reasons too. The Delhi-NCR region has several industries which produce smoke to add to the misery. The vehicular emission too causes lots of pollution. During the Covid lockdown, it was evident that how clear the atmosphere had become! But it was lockdown not only for the vehicles but also for the industries and all the construction activity had come to a standstill. The housing industry is a major culprit in this direction. As far as the urban planning is concerned that could be one of the reasons, but then skies in a city like Bangkok should have murkier! Thus, it is not the main reason. The other reasons as elaborated above all combine to produce a highly polluted atmosphere for Delhi-NCR. It becomes better once the temperature begins to rise and the hot air from the ground rises to stir the atmosphere and make the air more breathable. A strict control on construction activity during the winter months, strict implementation of industrial pollution policies, shifting of all the large and small industries to pre-identified industrial areas far away from habitation and last but not the least a total ban on stubble burning anywhere in north India may help to tide over the situation. About a century ago, London too had faced a similar problem. The London smog was notorious. However, a mathematician turned town planner (name forgotten!) gave the dictate: ‘Thus far and no further’. Meaning whatever construction has taken place is the end of it and for all further construction activity smaller townships far away from London were planned, which were connected with the city centre with rapid transport system. It will take a long time for our planners and developers to build a Capital like that.-VK Joshi, Former Director, Geological Survey of India

(Pics: Two views of the skies over Sukumvit, Bangkok)


The city of Delhi has retained its exalted status of the seat of power in northern India from the Mahabharat times (then called Indraprastha of the Pandavas). Many millennia later, in the 11th century CE, Anangpal II, a ruler of the Tomar dynasty, established and populated ‘Delhy’. Since then, it has evolved through multiple nuclei over a protracted period of 1000 years. The earliest surviving neighbourhood is the 17th century Shahjahanabad (Old Delhi). By the 20th century the New Delhi came up which was subsequently expanded eastwards (trans-Yamuna areas), southward (Vasant Vihar, Dhaula Kuan etc) and westwards (Najafagarh, Dwarka). The unregimented growth of Delhi has created an amalgamation of residential, industrial, business, recreational activities. Town planning, even in the ancient Indus Valley Civilisation, Is the conceptual designing of all upcoming housing systems, road network, industrial areas, sewage and solid waste disposal facilities etc., so as to protect the environment and facilitate regeneration. In other words, efficient town planning is the key for attaining optimal land use and sustainable development,  So far, Delhi has had three master plans - 1962, 2001 and 2021. Delhi Master Plan 2041 will be the fourth. As per Delhi master plan 2021, on an average the space required per person was 40 sq m, covering about 920 sq km of urban area for the projected population of 230 lakh in 2021. Many laws have been drafted to provide housing to a growing population in a city. For example, stilt parking on the ground floor became mandatory from 2011 in Delhi, for all newly constructed societies with areas between 100 and 1000 square meter. The Master Plan of Delhi 2021 had also proposed an energy-efficient FAR (Floor Area Ratio of around 1.2 and permissible height of 15 m (4 floors + Stilt floor for parking). FAR of 1.2 is equivalent to FSI (Floor Space Index) of 120%. Subsequently, due to the growing demand for housing the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) permitted residential redevelopment projects in the national capital to achieve a height of 17.5 meters provided the building has stilt- ground floor for parking. The contrast between the layouts of New Delhi (Lutyens’ Delhi) and the rest of Delhi is quite apparent in the radial roads and criss-crossing streets (pics 1 & 2). The episodic, multi directional expansion lacked any strategic town planning and was mostly based on tactical town planning. The consequent lack of unhindered circulation of air compounded with other contributors to the air pollution causes serious loss of the air quality. It can be easily seen from records that on a given day there are significant variations in the AQI in Chandni chowk, Connaught Place and Dwarka (just to cite a few examples). Thus, it can be empirically established that the efficiency of town planning is one of the many other factors affecting the Air Quality Index, which is so vital for the health and wellbeing of the populace. -Dr Shishir S Srivastava, Former Director, Geological Survey of India


Surprisingly, New Delhi happens to be one of the greenest capitals of the world with planned large open spaces and dense green cover. Old city is of course densely populated like any other old city of Indian sub-continent. New Delhi as well as old city, both have certain pockets of densely populated multistorey buildings creating claustrophobic well type of spaces between them.  Possibility of some of these pockets blocking the air flow cannot be ruled out. These pockets definitely have impact on micro climate of that area, but there is hardly any study or evidence that confirms the impact of these tiny wells on the climate of the city at macro level. It is certainly not one of the major factors affecting the air flow at the city level. On the contrary, the smog is very often attributed to the smoke of hay of rice, called Parali at local level, that comes from neighbouring Haryana with the westerly winds. It indicates that there are uninterrupted strong westerly winds flowing through Delhi and the barrier of unplanned multistorey buildings is not effective to stop the flow of the smoke. It is not Delhi or NCR only that experiences wide spread fog and smog for weeks altogether, rather whole of the surrounding region remains covered with the thick sheet of fog and smog during the winters. Most of these areas do not have any multistorey buildings. Still the smog does not dissipate or disappear with the wind for weeks altogether. Reasons of still air during certain specific period every year in Delhi and surrounding areas seem to be affiliated with some geographical phenomenon.  Frost and dew are also results of some largescale geographical activity. Since these phenomena are pleasant and do not harm human beings, these are never attributed to bad planning or any other misdeed of the man. We need to look into the broader picture of climate change to find out the reasons of creation of new areas of drought, patches of still air and increasing incidences of cloud burst. Restricted air flow in certain areas of Delhi and NCR may also be result of a large geographical phenomenon. -Dr KK Asthana, B.Arch (IIT Roorkee), Ph.D

दिल्ली और राष्ट्रीय राजधानी क्षेत्र आज दुनिया के सबसे प्रदूषित शहरों में शामिल है। यहां पर पीएम 2.5 और पीएम 10 की मात्रा दुनिया के अधिकांश शहरों से व सुरक्षित सीमा से कहीं अधिक है जिसके कारण इलाके में सांस के रोगियों की संख्या बढ़ती जा रही है। सर्दियों के मौसम में हर साल दिल्ली की हवा ज्यादा खतरनाक हो जाती है जिसके कई कारण सरकार बताती है। इन कारणों में दिल्ली में गाड़ियों से होने वाला प्रदूषण, दिल्ली से 300 किमी की परिधि में मौजूद करीब 13 कोयले वाले ताप विद्युत संयंत्र, हरियाणा व पंजाब में धान की पराली का जलाया जाना, दीपावली में आतिशबाजी, निर्माण आदि प्रमुख रूप से जिम्मेदार हैं। सरकार व न्यायालय ने इनपर रोक लगाने के लिए एक ताप विद्युत संयंत्र को 10 साल के लिए बंद करना, ठै 6 से नीचे की गाड़ियों को दिल्ली की सड़कों पर प्रतिबंधित करना, अस्पतालों के अलावा डीजल जेनरेटर पर रोक, पटाखों पर रोक, पंजाब व हरियाणा में पराली जलाने पर सख्ती बढ़ाना, निर्माण व विध्वंस पर रोक, कूड़े को जलाने से रोकने के लिए कड़ाई आदि कदम उठाए हैं लेकिन फिर भी दिल्ली में वायु प्रदूषण कम होता नजर नहीं आ रहा। तो दिल्ली में प्रदूषण के इतना विकराल होने की समस्या को समझने के लिए हमें दिल्ली व आसपास के क्षेत्र के भूगोल को समझने की भी आवश्यकता है। असल में दिल्ली समेत पूरा गंगा का मैदान चारों ओर से ऊंची संरचनाओं से घिरा है जिसमें एक ओर हिमालय, दूसरी ओर पठार, अरावली की पहाड़ियां आदि शामिल हैं अतः सर्दियों में हवा जब ठंडी होकर वायुमंडल में एकदम नीचे आ जाती है तो यहां जो भी प्रदूषण उत्पन्न होता है वो यहां से निकलकर दूर नहीं जा पाता और हवा ज्यादा खतरनाक हो जाती है। दिल्ली व आसपास के क्षेत्र की जनसंख्या करोड़ों में है और जिस तरह से दिल्ली छब्त् इलाके में अव्यवस्थित ढंग से शहरीकरण हुआ है, ये दिल्ली में हालात और अधिक बदतर कर देता है। सर्दियों में दिल्ली में हवा की रफ्तार महज 2 से 3 मीटर प्रति सेकेंड की होती है और दिल्ली में इमारतों का बड़ा अवरोध यहां उत्पन्न होने या बाहर से आने वाले प्रदूषण को बाहर निकलने नहीं देता और दिल्ली चारों से बंद एक गैस चैंबर बनकर सर्दियों में इस जगह को नर्क बनाती है। तेजी से हुए शहरीकरण के कारण दिल्ली के भीतर हरियाली का भी विनाश किया गया अतः प्रदूषण को खत्म करने का यहां का प्राकृतिक तंत्र भी विफल नजर आता है।  इसलिए दिल्ली को वायु प्रदूषण से हमेशा के लिए निजात दिलाने के लिए अन्य प्रयासों के अतिरिक्त दिल्ली में हो रहा प्रदूषण आसानी से दिल्ली से बाहर निकल सके इसकी योजना भी बनानी पड़ेगी। इसके लिए बड़े वृहद स्तर पर हवा के निकलने के लिए कॉरीडोर बनाने पर भी सरकार को ध्यान देना चाहिए, शहरीकरण के लिए नए मानक तय होने चाहिए ताकि सर्दियों में जब प्रदूषित हवा ऊपर न उठ पाए तो अगल बगल निकलने का मार्ग तो उसे मिल सके। -अभिषेक दुबे, पर्यावरण एवं पशु सशक्तिकरण कार्यकर्ता, नेचर क्लब फाउंडेशन, उत्तर प्रदेश

Topic of the month: Despite the Supreme Court’s warning, acts of cruelty towards street dogs continue. Even when the animal lovers/activists/feeders have evidences of those who have unnecessarily injured the animal with the purpose of deriving perverse pleasure, the law does nothing! Hardly ever an FIR is lodged or anyone arrested. How do you think this ‘mentality’ should be tackled and safety of the poor souls ensured? You may send your views (either in Hindi or English) in 300 words or more to [email protected]. Please also attach a colour photo of yourself.

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