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Delhi: Plan to use drones for pollution monitoring fails to find wings

By Soumya Pillai and Vatsala Shrangi
PUBLISHED ON NOV 28, 2019 08:20 PM IST

New Delhi

Delhi’s plan of using camera-fitted drones to monitor instances of stack pollution and waste burning in the city is likely to remain unfulfilled for at least another year.

Senior officials of the Delhi Pollution Control Board (DPCC) said that the agency has been trying to procure drones to monitor violations of pollution norms across the city, especially the 13 pollution hotspots. However, the plan has been stuck in a limbo.

“The plan is still under consideration. It was suggested as an experiment to monitor pollution activities in the hotspots. We are working out the logistics,” said a senior DPCC official.

The DPCC had earlier this year brought on three agencies to provide drone services to monitor dumping of debris on the Yamuna floodplains, to keep an eye on fires in the Ghazipur garbage dump and to monitor industrial pollution in Mundka.

However, the plan fell through after the private agencies were denied permissions to operate unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) citing security reasons.

The Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority (EPCA) had in early October also suggested that drones would be an effective way to monitor violations of pollution norms — such as open burning, waste dumping and stack pollution.

In the inter-departmental meeting, EPCA members had asked the DPCC to seek required permissions from the security agencies “at the earliest” and submit an update for the plan for procuring drones. Till November 29, no communication was received from the DPCC on this matter.

“We had asked the DPCC to tell us how workable getting drones will be for pollution monitoring, but after that meeting we have not heard anything from them,” said EPCA member Sunita Narain.

Narain said that monitoring would have been more effective, especially in the 13 hotspots, had prompt action been taken by the government to procure drones when the pollution was at its peak.

A senior home ministry official said that operation of UAVs is not allowed in Delhi without special permissions.

“We’ll have to see the permission request before saying anything. Usually government agencies get permissions. How much involvement and access the private partners have in the monitoring, what areas are involved, all this will have to be analysed,” the official said.

The air quality this year touched ‘emergency’ levels on two days. The PM 2.5 (fine particulate matter with diameter less than 2.5 micrometres) levels were above the danger mark of 300ug/m3 for over 86 hours mid-November.

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