The Environment Pollution Control Authority (EPCA) will have to overcome a number of hurdles such as lack of resources and multiplicity of agencies to implement a comprehensive response plan to rising pollution in Delhi.
The Centre on Friday notified the Graded Response Action Plan, which mandates that within 48-hours of the pollution levels hitting the ‘severe’ mark the odd-even road rationing policy will kick-in.
The onus will lie on the Delhi government to coordinate with its departments and the Delhi Traffic Police to enforce the car rationing restriction. The primary enforcement agency, the police, not being under the Delhi government will also create problems.
Unlike its two previous runs, the government will not have time to prepare a detailed plan for implementing odd-even, and will have to roll out the restrictions within two days.
Though officials said that they were prepared to roll out the plan on a short notice, the public transport is inadequate to take the load, once half of the city’s private vehicles are taken off roads.
“Not a single bus has been added to the DTC fleet in the last two years and Metro alone cannot take the entire load. But the government is trying to add different transport options to help carry passengers on routes where buses are less frequent,” a government official said.
However, the transport department said it has already prepared a five-point action plan to implement the odd-even restrictions even on short notice.
“Apart from engaging additional vehicles, to restrict diesel-belching vehicles entering the city we will coordinate with the neighbouring states. Enforcement at border points will be enhanced and real-time air quality data would be shown across the city. Home guards and marshals will be deployed at various traffic junctions,” said K K Dahiya, special commissioner, transport department.
Lack of ample monitoring stations
While Sunita Narain, member, EPCA, said hourly pollution levels will be monitored across Delhi and NCR, she pointed out that there are only two air quality monitoring stations in the whole NCR region, located in Noida and Faridabad. Delhi alone has six observatories operated by Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB).
“We will write to CPCB to set up more observatories in the NCR. Unless there is proper monitoring how will we be able to implement a response plan? However, for now we will work with the available stations and data,” Narain said.
The Delhi government had announced that they would install screens in high-pollution zones of the city to display real time air quality levels. It is, however, yet to see the light of the day.
Multiplicity of agencies
Multiplicity of agencies and coordinating their efforts will be a major challenge in the implementation of the increased parking charges and checking open burning of waste.
The action plan says that parking charges will have to be increased by at least three times the existing rates. Given the multiple agencies running parking spots in the city, the implementation of the move immediately will be a difficult task.
Delhi’s parking lots are operated by at least six agencies—the three civic corporations (east, north, and south), Delhi Development Authority (DDA), New Delhi Municipal Council (NDMC), and Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC). Many of these have already tried to increase parking fares in their jurisdiction but have failed because of public pressure and lack of political will.
Another problem will be to bring together private contractors who run most of these lots.
How the agencies will curb waste burning in their areas after the spike in pollution levels also remains to be seen.
So far, despite several orders from the government and the National Green Tribunal (NGT), the problem of open waste burning continues.