Delhi lifts ban on construction work as air quality improves marginally
Delhi’s environment minister Gopal Rai on Monday said a ban on construction and demolition activities has been lifted as the overall Air Quality Index (AQI) dropped to the “poor” category. He added that the ban was rescinded to ensure there is no further inconvenience to labourers.
Rai said strict vigilance through 585 monitoring teams will continue across the city. He added any private or government construction site will be immediately shut if it is found violating any of the 14-point anti-pollution guidelines issued last month.
“We will issue notices later, but construction work will be immediately halted and a penalty will be imposed on the spot, if any construction site, public or private, is found not adhering to the 14-point guidelines. The ban has been removed as air quality is already improving and the labour force was starting to face inconvenience,” said Rai.
Rai said the guidelines, which include installation of windbreakers, sprinkling of water and the use of anti-smog guns at sites with an area of over 20,000 square metres, needed to be strictly followed. He added the AQI was 431 (severe) at Anand Vihar at 10 am on Sunday but dropped to 329 (very poor) at 10 am on Monday. Similarly, at Ashok Vihar, the AQI dropped from 394 at 10 am on Sunday to 309 at 10 am on Monday.
“Bawana showed an improvement of 69 points in the last 24 hours, Mundka 80, Narela 86 points and Okhla-Phase 2 (AQI) dropped by around 140 points, from 397 to 283 at 10 am this morning. In a lot of places, the AQI is dropping below 300...”
In an order issued late on Sunday, Delhi’s environment department extended the ban on the entry of trucks into Delhi till November 26. Government offices, barring those involved in essential activities, were allowed work-from-home till November 26. The ban on physical classes at schools, colleges and educational institutes will continue till further orders. The government advised private offices to continue to try and allow work-from-home for their employees till November 26.
Rai on Monday said they were contemplating allowing CNG trucks into Delhi ahead of a review meeting of all government departments on November 24. “Based on the air quality and the forecast ahead, we will look into allowing CNG trucks into Delhi. Similarly, we may extend or remove other existing bans, depending on the situation.”
He referred to a recent analysis by the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), which found the contribution of Delhi’s local sources of pollution to be just 31% between October 24 and November 8. Rai said out of Delhi’s contribution, nearly half came from vehicles. He added the government was taking initiatives to encourage the use of public transport. Rai said while 1,000 CNG buses were hired on rent, the capacity of existing cluster buses and the Delhi metro have been increased.
“CSE’s analysis shows that out of Delhi’s local sources, vehicles contribute nearly half of the total load. To reduce this, we had approached the DDMA (Delhi Disaster Management Authority) to increase the standing capacity in the metro and DTC buses. This has now been approved and while 17 people can now stand per bus, 30 people can now stand in each metro coach. Earlier, people were only allowed to sit,” he said. Rai asked people to also utilise the new buses that had been hired to boost public transport capacity.
“The buses will have the words ‘Paryavaran Bus Sewa’ written on them and they will function like any other existing bus service. We request the general public to avoid using their own vehicles and to travel using these public transport services.”
Rai said Industries found using unapproved fuel will be shut down. He added the traffic police and the transport department have so far cracked down on around 4,000 individuals for not having valid pollution certificates (PUC).
“The crackdown on 10-year-old diesel and 15-year-old petrol vehicles is still continuing, along with a PUC check. We have also increased the capacity of water sprinkling, with around 500 tankers in use. At Delhi’s 13 pollution hotspots, the fire brigade is spraying water so that dust pollution can be controlled there,” he said.