Delhi: Diesel gensets banned as AQI tanks
The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) on Thursday banned the use of diesel generator sets and ordered enhancing of parking fee by up to four times in Delhi-NCR, measures listed under the Graded Response Action Plan (Grap) when the air quality hits ‘very poor’, according to an official order.
Though the air quality in Delhi is yet to hit ‘very poor’ category (when average AQI is between 200 and 300) this month, pollution levels have escalated fast since Monday when the city reported an AQI of 82 (in the satisfactory category) to 268 (poor category) on Thursday.
HT reported on Tuesday that according to an assessment by the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology (IITM), Delhi is headed towards an air emergency as stubble fires are expected to peak -- coinciding with Diwali (to be celebrated on November 4), when pollution levels usually spike because of large-scale bursting of firecrackers despite a ban.
According to the CPCB order, the implementation of Grap measures under ‘very poor’ category were ordered to be enforced after a meeting convened by a sub-committee of the Commission for Air Quality Management in Delhi-NCR and adjoining areas (CAQM) concluded that the air quality in the city is set to deteriorate in the coming days and hit dangerous levels.
“Actions under ‘very poor’ category, in addition to steps listed under the ‘poor to moderate’ AQI category should be implemented with immediate effect in Delhi-NCR,” the CPCB order read.
Besides ban on diesel gensets and increase in parking fee, other measures that will come into force include ban on the use of coal and wood in restaurants and open kitchens and augmentation of bus and Metro services.
These measures will be in addition to the steps that were enforced on October 18 listed under ‘moderate to poor’ category such as ban on firecrackers, stopping burning of garbage, mechanised sweeping of roads, sprinkling of water on unpaved roads and strict implementation of the PUC norms for vehicles.
On October 18, three days after its usual commencement date, the CPCB called into force the GRAP, and said that the measures listed under the ‘moderate to poor’ air quality section of the emergency plan should be immediately put into place by the Capital’s agencies, irrespective of the daily AQI readings.
Prashant Gargava, chairperson of the sub-committee on Grap, and member secretary, CPCB, told HT that conditions were expected to become worse in the coming days, with north-westerly winds bringing high load of pollutants from stubble fires in Punjab and Haryana. This is coinciding with a drop in the temperature that makes dispersal of pollutants difficult. “Therefore, we have decided to enforce measures under the ‘very poor’ category of Grap,” said Gargava, adding that citizens will be asked to take certain measures such as providing electric heaters to security guards to stop them for burning biomass to keep themselves warm.
In a statement the CAQM said, “Grap is in place and under implementation. A statutory sub-committee including experts has been constituted for its operationalisation and issuing necessary orders. The Grap specifically provides for the action to be taken by various agencies responsible for implementation under different AQI categories: moderate to poor, very poor, severe and emergency...The sub-committee is regularly holding meetings to take stock of the situation for appropriate intervention.”
Gargava said that power agencies have been advised to ensure that 24x7 power supply is provided across Delhi-NCR to cut dependence on generator sets.
However, several areas, especially in Haryana and Uttar Pradesh depend on high power diesel gensets for power back up, as power supply is patchy. In 2019 and 2020, the government of Uttar Pradesh and Haryana had sought exemptions as many private housing societies in the two states completely depended on generator sets for their power supply.
However, the CPCB has exempted the use of generators for emergency purposes such as medical services, elevators and escalators, railway, Metro and at airports.
Senior municipal corporation officials said that they were yet to receive the CPCB order, adding that a similar order in 2017 led to chaos with people parking their vehicles on roads and pavements to avoid designated lots.
A senior South Delhi Municipal Corporation (SDMC) official who oversees parking services said the four-fold hike could be counterproductive, saying in 2017 the hike led to chaotic traffic conditions had occurred and traffic jams in many areas. “A considerable portion of the authorised parking lots remained vacant,” he said.
BS Vohra, president, East Delhi RWA Joint Front, said temperatures were yet to drop significantly, giving sufficient time to the residents bodies provide heaters to guards. He added, “Citizens are willing to fight pollution, but the government needs to come up with a long-term plan against the sources of pollution,” said Vohra.
Experts said Grap measures must be implemented thoroughly.
Anumita Roychowdhury, executive director (research and advocacy), Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) said, “Everyone knows that Delhi sees the first instance of its worst pollution episodes after Diwali because of cracker bursting. This time around things could get worse because this will be around the same time that stubble burning instances peak. Agencies will have to ensure 100% boots on ground so that we can control the situation.”
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