As pollution rises, CPCB advises offices to reduce vehicle use

As Delhi’s air quality slipped into the ‘severe’ category on Thursday, recording an overall air quality index (AQI) of 450, the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) advised government and private offices to reduce the use of vehicles by at least 30% in the coming weeks in an attempt to keep the pollution levels in control.
Commuters travel on a road blanketed in thick haze amid rising air pollution levels, near Anand Vihar, in New Delhi, India, on Wednesday, November 4, 2020.(Vipin Kumar/HT photo)
Commuters travel on a road blanketed in thick haze amid rising air pollution levels, near Anand Vihar, in New Delhi, India, on Wednesday, November 4, 2020.(Vipin Kumar/HT photo)
Updated on Nov 06, 2020 03:14 AM IST
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Hindustan Times, New Delhi | BySoumya Pillai

As Delhi’s air quality slipped into the ‘severe’ category on Thursday, recording an overall air quality index (AQI) of 450, the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) advised government and private offices to reduce the use of vehicles by at least 30% in the coming weeks in an attempt to keep the pollution levels in control.

On Thursday, CPCB’s task force held a meeting to implement further action on the winter segment of the Air (Grap) to curb pollution.

Directing enforcement agencies in Delhi and states in the national capital region (NCR) region to increase action against polluting sources, the task force advised the government and private employers to reduce vehicular usage by at least 30% in the coming weeks to keep the pollution spike in check.

The CPCB advised that offices should encourage employees to work from home, go for car polling, and plan field activities in a way to reduce vehicular usage.

Prashant Gargava, member secretary, CPCB, said while these measures were advisory, this could go a long way in reducing rising pollution levels in the national capital.

“It is a known fact that vehicular emission is a contributor in Delhi’s pollution levels. Since other sources are being checked by enforcement teams, we have advised that offices encourage their staff to reduce vehicular trips as much as possible. Even for the general public, we advise that as much as possible, avoid using your cars and motorcycles,” Gargava said.

While Delhi residents welcomed this suggestion, many believed a plan to reduce vehicular use should have been made mandatory in offices till the pollution levels are controlled.

“Advisories are rarely followed. The culture of working from home has been developed here because of Covid-19 and so the pollution control bodies should make it mandatory for offices to allow only 30% of its staff on days when the pollution levels are rising. If we can do it for Covid then why not for pollution; this is also harming us,” Neel Dev Rai, joint secretary of the North Delhi Collective Residents Welfare Association (NDCRA), said.

The CPCB had last year too released a similar advisory, asking people to reduce the use of diesel cars as much as possible and urged employers to allow its staff to work from home.

Gargava said the India Meteorological Department (IMD) has informed them that air quality will improve from Thursday evening, and the AQI is expected to settle in the ‘very poor’ category on Friday. He said the task force is keeping a close watch on the pollution levels.

VK Soni, head of India Meteorological Department’s environment monitoring research centre, who was also a part of the meeting, informed CPCB that the sudden deterioration in the air quality was a result of an unprecedented reduction in wind speed, which could not be captured by the IMD model.

“It was apprised that PM10 (particulate matter with diameter less than 10 micrometers) was the prominent pollutant (on Thursday). It was indicated that air quality is likely to improve from today evening due to increased wind speed and will remain in ‘very poor’ category for the next two days,” the minutes of the meeting read.

After a central government ordinance dissolved the Supreme Court-appointed air quality monitoring body, Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority (Epca), the task of calling for the implementation of emergency measures listed under Grap will be on the CPCB this time.

“Enforcement is in no way getting affected. We used to monitor the air quality and send our recommendations to Epca, and we continue to do it now to the union environment ministry,” Gargava said.

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Thursday, December 09, 2021