Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority (EPCA) takes stock of the prevailing smog situation, status of action in the National Capital Region (NCR) and directs priority measures

New Delhi November 10, 2012:

Responding to the serious public health concerns over the severe smog episode in Delhi, the Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority (EPCA) convened two separate meetings with the senior officials of Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh in the capital today.

The meeting was to assess the prevailing smog conditions and the remedial measures needed for immediate impact. The air shed of the national capital region is already saturated and it has no room left for more pollution.

EPCA also took serious note of the recent reports on the practice of burning post harvest paddy stubble in the agricultural fields of Punjab and its contribution to the severe smog in Delhi. This has emerged from the satellite images released by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) that showed large number of fires over agriculture fields of Punjab. EPCA discussed the nature of the problem and the remedial measures in this high powered meeting.

EPCA emphasized, that while Delhi would need to step up its action to curb the alarmingly high pollution levels, NCR-wide action plan is also required to ensure that trans-boundary effects of pollution is minimized.

Based on the information and status of action presented by the respective state governments, the following directions were issued by EPCA:

Directives related to curbing of agricultural burning

  • Make paddy straw burning an offence in the region: Department of Environment, Punjab will issue a notification prohibiting burning of left-over straw after harvesting of crops in whole of Punjab with immediate effect under Section 19 (5) of the Air (Prevention & Control of Pollution) Act, 1981. Both, state of Punjab and Haryana will ensure that there is a complete ban on paddy straw burning within a time frame of two years.
  • Provide incentive and subsidy to innovative farming methods already present to avoid stubble burning: For the ban to be effective, Central Government must consider and support the proposal from the two states to provide 50 per cent subsidy on price of new agricultural equipment “Zero till seeding fertilizer machine” or “Rotavator”. This machine provides three advantages: stop burning of left-over straw after harvesting, fertilize the soil and carbon capture in the soil. The straw is thus recycled.
  • Promote alternative uses of paddy straw: Both Punjab and Haryana will execute plans for power generation and bio-methanation, using left-over rice/ paddy straw in the next two years.
  • Monitoring of progress: EPCA will monitor progress on compliance of these directions every six months.

Directives related to air pollution control in the NCR: In a separate meeting convened with Environment and Transport Department officials of NCR region (Ghaziabad, Noida, Gurgaon and Faridabad), the following directions were given:

  • Stringent action on gross polluting vehicles: Officials of Transport Department, Delhi and respective states will organize inspection at five border points – NH-8 Border, NH-24 Border, Singhu Border, Tikri Border and Badarpur Border to stop any vehicle emitting dark smoke from entering or exiting border and take action against the defaulters.
  • Stringent action and monitoring of all key pollution sources in the NCR: Officials of Uttar Pradesh and Haryana State Pollution Control Board looking after Ghaziabad, Noida, Gurgaon and Faridabad region will take immediate and stepped up measures towards enforcement of pollution norms by industries and ban on garbage and leaf burning. They will also ensure that generator sets used by both industries and commercial establishments meet the emissions norms.
  • Monitoring of action: The concerned state departments will send weekly update on actions taken to EPCA. Officials of Uttar Pradesh and Haryana State Pollution Control Board looking after Ghaziabad, Noida, Gurgaon and Faridabad region will prepare and submit proposal to the Central Government for installation of continuous ambient air quality monitoring stations in critically polluted areas and pollution hotspots. Currently, monitoring of air pollution in these fast growing regions is very weak and inadequate.

For more details, please contact Anumita Roychowdhury at 9811793923