Delhi govt to ready winter pollution plan by Sept 30
The Delhi government is preparing a 10-point winter action plan to combat air pollution in the national capital, Delhi environment minister Gopal Rai said on Thursday, and added that he will hold a review meeting with all departments concerned on September 14.
The minister explained the plan will focus on different aspects of the air pollution, including internal and external factors responsible for hazardous levels of pollutants in Delhi’s air during winters every year. Rai listed some of these factors as stubble burning, vehicular emissions, road and construction dust, waste burning and poor management of pollution hot spots.
He said besides focussing on all these things, the government will also look to improve coordination with the neighbouring states for action on crop stubble burning and polluting industries. He also talked about setting up an advance war room for managing anti-pollution measures and upgrade the Green Delhi app that was launched last year as well as better coordination with central agencies such as Commission for Air Quality Management (CAQM).
“We already held a meeting with the environment and forest department to outline the key focus areas for the plan. Now, we plan to hold a meeting of all departments concerned on September 14, and take suggestions on the same. The winter action plan will be ready by September 30,” Rai said.
Each winter Delhi turns into a gas chamber due to meteorological factors such as low temperatures, poor speed and adverse direction of the wind, as well as other factors such as road dust and garbage burning besides vehicular emissions. Despite the city being remained locked due to Covid pandemic for months last year, the situation quickly deteriorated August onwards with the phased reopening of the city and the economy.
According to a Centre for Science analysis, from the cleanest August (the cleanest month since air quality records started to be maintained in May 2015), the PM2.5 levels rose dramatically to one of the dirtiest Novembers in recent years.
Rai added that several campaigns will be launched in a phased manner to deal with prominent sources of pollution.
To address stubble burning across non-Basmati rice fields in the Capital, the Delhi government last year introduced bio-decomposer formula, which can decompose crop residue and turn it into manure within 20-25 days.
“Emission from burning of stubble, waste and those from vehicles and dust are the major sources of winter pollution, which have been kept as the first four focus areas in the plan. Besides, areas in Delhi where people are subjected to extremely high levels of pollution, as compared to the rest of the city, are being identified as hotspots. Special attention will be given to these areas,” the minister said.
He also talked about installing more smog towers, based on the results from the ones that were set up at some hot spots. The Delhi government recently inaugurated a smog tower Baba Kharak Singh Marg, Connaught Place. Also an experimental smog tower at Anand Vihar --identified as a pollution hot spot --- has been installed by the Union government under the National Clean Air Programme, which was inaugurated by Union environment minister Bhupendra Yadav on September 7.
Rai said the integrated war room, set up in 2019, will be upgraded for better monitoring and implementing area-specific solutions.
Anumita Roychowdhury, executive director, Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), said stubble burning, which has been fixed as the first focus point in the plan, must be a part of the inter-state coordination. Also, the waste burning, vehicular and dust pollution have been rightly identified as areas of intervention. “The plan should have also included industrial pollution as an intervention area. A specific and detailed strategy for implementation in each of these sectors is required, which will also determine the effectiveness of the plan. For instance, to control waste burning, scaling up of the entire waste management system with adequate infrastructure is required. Also, stringent compliance of the strategies can ensure the plans functionality,” she said.