Lists key areas of concern, which require short term and long term action to combat deadly air pollution in NCR
In November 2016, the Supreme Court of India directed the government to frame and implement a Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP) to control air pollution. The Union environment ministry notified the Plan on January 17, 2017
The Plan is designed like a disaster alert system, which directs governments to take tougher and tougher actions based on the level of air pollution
The key measures, which are listed under the Moderate and Poor categories, have been in force through the year, with state governments monitoring progress
From October 17, 2017 to March 15, 2018 the Very Poor and Severe categories will come into force
As a part of this, the Badarpur thermal power plant will be closed. In addition, brick kilns, which have not converted to a cleaner zig zag technology, will be shut down
All other measures will be strictly enforced. The objective is to ensure that pollution levels do not spike and that emergency measures are not required
New Delhi, October 17, 2017: As the festival of Diwali and winter season draw near, Delhi-NCR is gearing up to meet the severe air quality challenge that it faces every year around this time. A Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP) has been notified and is already in place – and today is the day from when Very Poor and Severe categories of GRAP will be imposed till March 15, 2018. This was announced in a press conference here today by the Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority (EPCA), the committee constituted by the Central government following orders passed by the Supreme Court of India in 1998.
“Difficult situations demand tough responses and solutions and the Delhi-NCR region is faced with a really difficult situation each winter when air pollution levels spiral out of control. The EPCA and all other agencies of the government are prepared to take those tough decisions which we believe will help clear the air,” said EPCA chairperson Bhure Lal.
About GRAP and the actions taken till now
In November 2016, the Supreme Court of India had directed the government to frame and implement a Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP) to control air pollution under various categories of the National Air Quality Index (AQI). The environment ministry notified the Plan on January 17, 2017. Sources of air pollution in Delhi-NCR vary according to seasons – the graded measure approach has carefully considered this aspect and has included appropriate measures for each level of pollution according to the AQI.
Some aspects of the Plan have been set in motion in Delhi-NCR, and several meetings for this have been held under the guidance of the EPCA and the LG of Delhi. A look at the actions already undertaken:
Installation of Continuous Ambient Air Quality Monitoring Stations (CAAQMS): Delhi, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan have initiated work on setting up these stations. Of the 20 planned in Delhi, 14 are expected to be commissioned by end of October. Haryana has planned 13 stations, Uttar Pradesh 10, and Rajasthan two.
Information dissemination: Daily air quality information is now available on a web-based common platform set up by the CPCB. Daily meteorological and air quality information is also shared with the EPCA.
Pollution control in thermal power plants: The Badarpur power plant will be closed during winter this year, starting October 15, 2017. It will be shut down permanently in July 2018. The state pollution control boards of UP and Haryana have been directed to monitor pollution from the remaining thermal power plants -- Dadri in UP and Jhajjar in Haryana. This also includes the management of fly ash from the plants.
Pollution control from trucks: The Delhi police and Delhi Transport Department are working to strictly enforce directions of the Supreme Court, which requires only trucks destined for Delhi and not older than 10 years to be allowed entry after payment of an Environment Compensation Charge (ECC). However, as this order is difficult to implement on ground, EPCA is working with the South Delhi Municipal Corporation to get a detailed survey of the trucks entering Delhi and will take further actions based on the findings of this survey.
No tolerance for visible emissions: The Delhi government is conducting surprise checks to stop visibly polluting vehicles from plying, by subjecting them to heavy fines. In addition, the SC has directed for improvement of the PUC system, including linking it with insurance.
The state governments, through the task force set up under their chief secretaries, have also directed that there should be control of dust from roads, construction projects as well as no-tolerance towards garbage burning.
The aim of these measures is to ensure that the region does not have to impose ‘emergency’ level measures, which come into effect when pollution is categorised as severe+. Under this category much tougher steps, including total ban on construction and odd-even system of vehicle rationing would have to come.
Many challenges remain
“Delhi-NCR has a long way to go before it can lay claim to having reasonably clean and breathable air. There are still many challenges that we face and we must continue to take action, which is both short and long term,” said Sunita Narain, member of EPCA and director general of Centre for Science and Environment (CSE).
The EPCA has listed the following key areas of future intervention:
Garbage burning: While governments are working to step up vigilance and action against garbage burning during the level 2-3 GRAP period, this is not the solution. There is an urgent need for a plan to remediate the three landfill sites in Delhi and to ensure that solid waste management across NCR is done so that there is segregation and processing.
Road and construction dust: India is an under-construction country; also, there is extremely poor management of the system of construction. This needs to be drastically improved so that roads, when being repaired or constructed, do not add to the dust in the environment.
Augmentation of public transport and last mile connectivity in Delhi and NCR is critical. The EPCA has found that instead of improvement, there is a declining bus fleet and ridership in Delhi. There is also poor connectivity within NCR. The EPCA is concerned that without a serious and urgent effort to improve public transport, all efforts to reduce vehicular pollution will be negated. Under GRAP, the emphasis is on intensification of public transport systems during high pollution periods. But this is not possible without an augmentation of the system.
Parking: Under GRAP, once the region is under the Very Poor category, parking rates have to be enhanced three-four times. This requires a parking policy to be in place urgently in the NCR.
Burning of crop residues: The three states of Haryana, Punjab and UP have been directed by the NGT to control burning of crop residues. However, the EPCA recognises that this is only possible when farmers are given alternatives and when there is widespread use of biomass for power generation.
Use of dirty fuels (pet-coke and furnace oil): India is importing large quantities of pet coke, which is an extremely polluting fuel, from the US and Saudi Arabia. The US has banned the use of this fuel because of pollution and China is no longer importing this because of its pollution concerns. The EPCA has recommended a ban on the import of pet coke into India; its use only in cement industry and standards for SOx and NOx – key pollutants to be notified so that industrial pollution can be checked. This has currently not been done. The SC will hear this matter later in October. (See presentation for detailed recommendations).
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