Agencies unprepared to implement Grap measures even as pollution worsens in Delhi, say experts

Experts say even a year after their first experience with the Graded Response Action Plan (Grap), agencies in Delhi remain unprepared to implement measures, especially those related to the city’s public transport.

delhi Updated: Nov 02, 2018 08:08 IST
Sweta Goswami
Sweta Goswami
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
delhi air pollution,grap measures,delhi's air quality
People walk through a haze at the India Gate, New Delhi, on a smog-covered evening on Thursday, November 1, 2018.(Vipin Kumar / HT Photo )

As pollution continues to worsen in Delhi, the Supreme Court-appointed Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority (EPCA) has warned that “stricter measures” including the odd-even road rationing may have to be introduced any time.

But even a year after their first experience with the Graded Response Action Plan (Grap), agencies remain unprepared to implement measures, especially those related to the city’s public transport, experts said.

Going by the plan, municipal corporations should have already increased parking fees by ‘three-four times’ across the city as air quality has remained in the ‘very poor’ category (AQI 301-400) for more than a week. Similarly, the government also has to augment bus and Metro services.

While the Delhi Metro announced it has added 82 trips to its network, there has been no change in the parking rates or the number of buses.

Odd-Even

Last year, government agencies went into frenzy when EPCA directed them to roll out the odd-even scheme. This scheme comes into effect once the city’s AQI crosses ‘severe+’ or ‘emergency’ category (more than AQI 501) for 48 hours.

Faced with an already depleting bus fleet, the transport department had no option but to hire private buses to meet the increased demand.

Officials said Delhi Transport Corporation (DTC) had found it difficult to convince transporters. “During the two odd-even drives in 2016 also, we had taken buses from schools. But passengers had defaced the buses. Last year when we asked, private transporters refused to lend us buses but we could not give them clarity over the number of days the scheme would go on,” an official said.

The car rationing scheme, however, did not take place last year as air quality had marginally improved.

The transport department said if the need arises to implement the scheme, it is “equipped to hire buses on immediate and temporary basis”.

“If the odd-even scheme has to be rolled out in a day, then I doubt the government would be able to provide seamless transport. Forget last-mile or feeder services, even long distance bus journeys continue to be unreliable in Delhi. The routes on which the existing bus fleet is operating are also ill-designed. They should be direction oriented instead of being destination oriented,” said S Gangopadhyay, former director, Central Road Research Institute (CRRI).

From 5,852 buses in Delhi in 2016, the city now has 5,561 against the requirement of 11,000 buses.

“There have been not less than six different proposals on procuring buses in the past one year. Unfortunately, most of them were being shot down in the courts, until recently. However, things are going to be much better in 2019 as we have got the necessary directions from the judiciary,” a transport official said.

Parking

Even as pollution levels continue to plummet, agencies on Thursday said they haven’t yet discussed the possibility of increasing parking rates.

“As and when we get any direction, we will implement a hike in parking fees. It only needs an executive order to be passed, which takes a day to be passed on to parking contractors,” said Madhup Vyas, commissioner of the North Delhi Municipal Corporation.

On November 9 last year, a spurt in pollution levels had prompted the lieutenant governor to direct the MCDs to increase parking fees by four times. This hike was withdrawn after four days, despite the EPCA clearly asking agencies not to roll it back to the usual rate of Rs 10-20 per hour.

“It is extremely disappointing to see that the Delhi government has been toying with the parking policy for more than a year now,” said Sunita Narain, EPCA member.

A detailed plan, under the Delhi Maintenance and Management of Parking Rules (2017), to introduce differential parking and disallowing free surface parking, including residential areas, has been stuck with the Delhi government for more than a year now.

First Published: Nov 02, 2018 08:07 IST