Let me take you back in time a little,” says Anumita Roychowdhury, an elegant woman in a beige and pale blue wrap. She’s the director of the Center for Science and Environment, a group that’s played a leading role in the years of battles over air quality. In the 1990s, she tells me, Delhi’s air was so bad “you couldn’t go out in the city without your eyes watering.” India had no regulations on vehicles or fuel, so despite advances elsewhere in the world, engines here hadn’t improved for 40 years, and fuel quality was abysmal. It was the activist Supreme Court that changed that. Its judges started issuing orders, and from 1998 to about 2003, a series of important new rules came into force. Polluting industries were pushed out of the city, auto-rickshaws and buses were converted to CNG, and emission limits for vehicles were introduced, then tightened. “These were pretty big steps,” Roychowdhury says, and they brought results. “If you plot the graph of particulate matter in Delhi, you will see after 2002 the levels actually coming down.” The public noticed. “I still remember the 2004 Assembly elections in Delhi, where the political parties were actually fighting with each other to take credit for the cleaner air. It had become an electoral issue.” So how did things go so wrong? The burst of activity petered out, and rapid growth in car ownership erased the improvements that had been won. “If you look at the pollution levels again from 2008 and ’09 onwards, you now see a steady increase,” Roychowdhury says. “We could not keep the momentum going.” Indeed, particulate levels jumped 75 percent in just a few years.14 Even the action that was taken, she believes, “was too little. We had to do a lot more, more aggressively.” Part of the reason government stopped pushing, Roychowdhury believes, is that the moves needed next would have had to address Delhiites’ growing fondness for cars, so would surely have prompted public anger. “There is a hidden subsidy for all of us who use cars today,” she says. “We barely pay anything in terms of parking charges, we barely pay anything in terms of road taxes. It is so easy to buy a car because of easy loans. So there is absolutely no disincentive.” About 80 percent of transportation spending is focused on drivers, even though they’re only about 15 percent of Delhiites. “The entire infrastructure of the city is getting redesigned to facilitate car movement, but not people’s movement.