As temperatures dip, bonfires add to Delhi’s air pollution | Latest News Delhi - Hindustan Times
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As temperatures dip, bonfires add to Delhi’s air pollution

By, New Delhi
Dec 23, 2021 04:27 AM IST

Municipal agencies in the city — North, South and East Delhi municipal corporations — have been directed to keep a close watch on these fires.

As temperatures fall across north India, including Delhi, instances of open fires set by people in an attempt to keep warm has also started rising, prompting pollution control agencies in the Capital to direct municipal agencies to form special teams to keep a check on these fires, and limit its contribution to fouling up Delhi’s air.

People huddle around a bonfire at Sarai Kalen Khan, on Wednesday evening. (Sanjeev Verma/HT PHOTO)
People huddle around a bonfire at Sarai Kalen Khan, on Wednesday evening. (Sanjeev Verma/HT PHOTO)

Senior officials of the Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC) said that it received 67 complaints of open burning between December 12 and 22 on the government’s Green Delhi app, as compared to 21 cases reported between December 1 and 10.

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Officials said though most of the cases were of garbage burning, instances of small localised fires to ward off the cold also featured in the list.

Officials said these instances have increased especially over the last five-six days when temperatures across north India plunged, with many cities recording a cold wave.

“Apart from the complaints that we are receiving, our own patrolling teams have also started noticing a rise in these local fires. As the temperatures are dropping, in many localities, people are lighting localised fires to keep themselves warm. While the intensity of these fires may be small, when the numbers increase, its impact on pollution increases,” said a senior DPCC official.

The official said that along with their own patrolling teams, the municipal agencies in the city — North, South and East Delhi municipal corporations — have also been directed to keep a close watch on these fires.

Officials said that the focus of prosecution is on large garbage fires, and that in cases of fires set by residents to keep themselves warm in the cold, authorities only resort to counselling and warnings, instead of fines.

“These fires are usually set by people from poorer sections. They are either people who are on night shifts, like security guards etc, or the homeless people who do not have a roof over their heads. For them pollution is not a criterion,” the official said.

Municipal agencies said that they have started night patrolling in localities.

“Our special teams are keeping a close watch on these fires and putting it out. Since most of these fires are reported during the night, our teams are also conducting night patrols,” said Jogi Ram Jain, the chairperson of the North MCD standing committee.

Enforcement agencies also pointed out that such fires can be controlled only with public cooperation.

Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) officials said that while the Supreme Court-mandated Graded Response Action Plan (Grap) lists giving heaters to security staff by individual house owners when the pollution levels peak to the ‘very poor’ levels during winter, it is a suggestion and cannot be imposed mandatorily.

“We have been trying to get residents from upscale localities on board to get them to provide heaters so that these small fires can be stopped but we have not been able to get many on board with this. This is something that will have to be done by house owners. We can advise them but not force them,” a senior CPCB official said requesting anonymity.

Aniket Aggarwal, president of the north Delhi residents welfare forum, said that they have been advising independent house owners to provide heating equipment to their staff, especially for those doing night shifts.

“Many of our members have done this, but we cannot force anyone. In some areas, however, we have seen that despite being given heating equipment and blankets, they light fires because it helps them stay awake. More awareness campaigns will have to be conducted for house owners and staff alike,” he said.

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