EPCA releases Report Card on Delhi’s air pollution

Says there has been some visible improvement in air quality, but cautions there is still a long way to go to achieve clean air

The Delhi-NCR region must not lose  the momentum in this fight to breathe

New Delhi, February 28, 2018: Delhi and its surrounding region’s air quality is showing the first signs of improvement, but the air is not even close to being called clean yet – says an assessment report released here today by the Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority (EPCA). The report comes as the winter of 2017-18 draws to a close, and after a critical period in the fight against air pollution in Delhi-NCR.

“This reduction in pollution levels shows that we can make a difference. But the air is not completely clean yet. We must not lose the momentum in our fight for clean air. We must not lose sight of the fact that right to breathe is fundamental,” said Bhure Lal, EPCA chairperson, while releasing the Report Card.

“The air in this region of the National Capital is so polluted and toxic, that all our combined efforts have reduced pollution merely from the severe-severe plus category to poor-very poor category,” pointed out EPCA member Sunita Narain.

She added: “Remember, very poor category is still deadly. According to the health index of the government, prolonged exposure to this level of pollution is hazardous, even for healthy people. This means that all of us breathing this air are exposed to toxins and this will impact our health and more importantly, health of our children. Therefore, we need to do much more to reduce pollution and bring it to the good-moderate level.”

The battle against air pollution needs a comprehensive plan, credible monitoring, enhanced implementation and rigorous enforcement, says the EPCA Report Card.

The winter of 2017-18 – what does the data show
Data from the period October 1, 2017 to February 25, 2018 points to a slight improvement in air quality levels. An analysis of the Central Pollution Control Board’s air quality index data shows that the number of days in the severe category has decreased for each month in comparison to the previous year, except in January. In February, 16 per cent of the days were in the moderately poor category, compared to 8 per cent in the previous year.

“Overall, there is a small difference – the number of days in the poor-very poor category have increased as compared to the very poor-severe category,” says Narain.

But there is a word of caution as comparison of PM2.5 concentrations at four monitoring stations -- Mandir Marg, Punjabi Bagh, R K Puram and Anand Vihar – shows that the impact is not visible yet. Pollution levels remain high. The data on the hot-spot pollution areas, in particular Anand Vihar, also shows that pollution levels are extremely high – and do not show any sign of improvement.

“The Graded Response Action Plan and the emergency actions that were taken have had an impact. However, we must not lose sight of the challenge,” Narain says.

The agenda for future
The report of EPCA lists the actions that have already been taken and tracks those that need to be taken. Said Bhure Lal: “We need the following actions, at scale and speed”:
a. Massive augmentation of public transport so that people do not have to use their cars.
b. Massive move towards cleaner fuels like natural gas or electricity generated from cleaner sources, including renewables.
c. Massive efforts to enforce and implement directions for not burning of garbage and dust management. Currently, we do not segregate waste at the household level and this is adding to the crisis of waste burning in the country.
d. Massive efforts to subsidise farmer’s technologies that will allow them to re-plough the straw into the ground.

According to the EPCA, the key work to be done March 2018 onwards is as follows:


Work to be done



Complete setting up network of monitoring stations and link all

State pollution boards/CPCB


Ensure that all actions are continuously taken as listed in GRAP for moderate category

All state governments with regular monitoring by chief secretaries


Notify the Comprehensive Action Plan



Implement the Comprehensive Action Plan through regular monitoring and enforcement



Implement the directions of the Hon’ble Supreme Court of August 10, on PUC

MORTH and state transport departments


Ensure that trucks move to completed and commissioned EPE/WPE and that orders of Hon’ble Supreme Court on diversion of non-destined trucks and ECC are strictly adhered to.

State governments


Ensure RFID is installed as per the directions of the Hon’ble Supreme Court by onset of winter 2018



Implement actions on public transport, non-motorised transport and car restraint as listed and agreed upon with timelines in CAP

MOEF&CC to ensure implementation


Enforce directions of Hon’ble Supreme Court on pet coke/FO ban and implement standards for SOX and NOx in all industries and facilitate shift to cleaner fuel

State pollution control boards


Ensure that all industries are equipped with online monitoring, which is made available publicly

State pollution control boards


Ensure that there is strict regulation/ban on polluting industries operating from non-conforming areas

EPCA is working on report on this and will discuss with all stakeholders on how to proceed


Expediting emission standards for thermal power plants

Hon’ble Court to give directions


Ensure operation of gas based Bawana (unit 1) from March 1, 2018 and closure of coal based Dadri power plant in winter 2018

Delhi Power Department


Implement the recommendations of the High Level Task Force on crop burning

MOEF&CC is the designated nodal agency

Emphasises Narain: “It is important not to lose the momentum for clean air. It is also important to realize that even with all this attention and work done, we have only improved air quality marginally and that levels remain at poor-very poor category. This is hazardous for health.“

“We say this because current levels of air pollution are unacceptable and are a serious health issue. The damage to human health because of toxins in air must not be under-estimated,” says the EPCA report card.

Says Narain: “This report card presents the actions taken till now and the work that needs to be done. It is designed to keep us on track. So, that we can win this battle for our right to clean air. It is clear that all governments are extremely cognizant of the challenge and are taking measures to reduce deadly air pollution. But it is equally clear that we will need much more enhanced action and at much greater speed.“

(See EPCA Report Card for the complete comparisons and graphs)

For more details, interviews etc, please contact Vrinda Nagar, vrinda.nagar@cseindia.org / 9654106253.

For a detailed report card on action taken/to be taken and its impact on the quality of air, please click here to see EPCA Reportcard


Annexure: Quick list of actions already taken in 2017-18

Clean air governance
• A network of extensive and robust monitoring stations has come up in the public domain
• Notification and implementation of Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP)
• Supreme Court directive on a single Comprehensive Action Plan for Delhi and NCR. The court had directed the environment ministry to notify the action plan.

Fuel and vehicles
• Supreme Court banned the sale of BS-III vehicles in India from April 1, 2017
• MOPNG has decided to advance supply of BS-VI fuels in Delhi
• Government has decided to advance BS-VI fuel-emission to April 2020.
• Supreme Court has made valid PUC certificate mandatory for annual vehicle insurance nation-wide
• Supreme Court has directed for introduction of automatic on-line network to link PUC data centres and mandate prepayment of PUC fees for proper recording of tests

Power plants and industries
• Permanent closure of Badarpur as of July 2018
• Operationalisation of gas based Bawana plant (one unit) by March 1, 2018 (which may now not need coal-based Dadri to run in winter)
• Ban on pet coke and FO in region
• Setting up of Sox, Nox standards, which will require industry to install pollution control or switch to gas

Crop burning and brick kiln
• The PM office set up high-level committee has drafted a plan for crop burning in states of Haryana and Punjab. The plan has been accepted; budget 2018 has made provision. MOEF&CC has been appointed nodal agency to ensure implementation
• About 1500 brick kiln owners have submitted affidavits to EPCA undertaking commitment to shift to improved-zigzag kiln technology by April 2018. Roughly 600 have converted. By July 1, 2018, only zigzag technology compliant brick kilns will be allowed to operate.