New policy in March to combat Delhi-NCR’s pollution problem

Published on Feb 14, 2022 05:27 AM IST

The expert panel by the CAQM was formed on January 7 this year, while the central air quality control body invited comments and suggestions from the general public on December 24 to solve the region’s severe air pollution problem.

Low visibility due to a layer of smog at Vijay Chowk, in New Delhi, India, on Tuesday, November 30, 2021. (Photo by Sanjeev Verma/ Hindustan Times)
Low visibility due to a layer of smog at Vijay Chowk, in New Delhi, India, on Tuesday, November 30, 2021. (Photo by Sanjeev Verma/ Hindustan Times)
By, New Delhi

Delhi and the National Capital Region (NCR) may get a comprehensive plan to tackle its air pollution problem by next month, with a nine-member expert panel formed by the Commission for Air Quality Management (CAQM) due to submit its report in March.

The panel was formed on January 7 this year, while the central air quality control body invited comments and suggestions from the general public on December 24 to solve the region’s severe air pollution problem. The best solutions have been shortlisted, said members of the panel, which is currently analysing presentations based on these ideas.

The nine-member panel is headed by P Raghavendra Rao, chairman of the Haryana State Pollution Control Board (HSPCB). Arvind Nautiyal, the CAQM’s member secretary, holds the same role in this committee. It also comprises experts such as Sachin Ghude (a scientist at the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology, or IITM), Mukesh Sharma (IIT Kanpur), Anumita Roychowdhury (executive director at the Centre for Science and Environment) and LS Kurinji (from the Council on Energy, Environment and Water, or CEEW).

The panel was asked to “consider suggestions received from the general public” with a view to “finding a permanent solution” for Delhi-NCR’s annual winter pollution rerun, which is fuelled first by stubble smoke from neighbouring agrarian states and then by local sources of bad air, and exacerbated by low temperatures.

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Each expert member will also have to submit their own suggestions before the final policy is finalised. The panel was given two months for the task, according to the January 7 order that ratified the panel.

A member of the expert panel who asked not to be named said residents were given two weeks to submit possible solutions and ideas that could be implemented next winter. The panel has picked the “best solutions” within each sector.

“The final report will be submitted to CAQM by the first week of March. Currently, individuals are being asked to present their ideas to us and several presentations have been seen in the last two weeks from the shortlisted solutions. Once finalised, these will be incorporated in the report, along with each expert’s comments,” said the member.

Another member said the plan was fairly comprehensive and will look at all sectors, including long-term solutions, such as increasing the number of electric vehicles on the road, better solutions to waste management in place of the existing landfill sites, making the PUC certificate criteria more stringent and to prevent subsidies to prevent biomass burning.

“Each sector was being looked at separately and for each of these sectors. Multiple solutions are being looked at. The CAQM asked for the public to participate to include problems on the ground,” the second official said.

As per the CAQM, the policy formed will run in tandem with existing plans, both at the national and state level. These include measures under the Graded Response Action Plan (Grap), the Comprehensive Action Plan (CAP) and the National Clean Air Programme (NCAP), each of which have short-term and long-term measures to tackle air pollution in the region.

“This is in preparation for next winter and to address any gaps if at all,” said a senior union environment ministry official.

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