Badarpur power plant shut, action plan to tackle air pollution in Delhi-NCR comes into force
The graded response action plan (GRAP) — to combat ‘poor’, ‘very poor’ and ‘severe’ levels of air pollution in Delhi-NCR— came into effect on Monday, with the shutting of the Badarpur Thermal Power Station and the civic bodies issuing directions for water sprinkling and mechanised sweeping of select road stretches.
But even these measures won’t be enough to keep the air clean, unless authorities take stringent measures to control road dust, which is a major contributor to pollution in the Delhi-NCR.
The air quality index (AQI) of the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) for Delhi on Monday was 246 (poor category), up from Saunday’s 204.
The Supreme Court-appointed Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority (EPCA) chairman on Monday asked chief secretaries of Delhi and NCR cities to step up enforcement of dust-control measures at construction sites. Under GRAP, all construction activity is banned when the AQI touches the severe level.
The directions came after excavation work by various agencies on many stretches, including NH-8, NH-24 and Sarai Kale Khan to ITO, among others, was observed. The work was being carried out without measures to control dust or ensure proper disposal of construction and demolition (C&D) waste.
“We have given directions to chief secretaries to ensure construction agencies take all precautionary measures and dispose of C&D waste at designated spots. The particulate matter (PM) 10 level usually rises due to road dust,” said Bhure Lal, chairperson, EPCA.
PM10 and PM2.5 are the most prominent pollutants in Delhi-NCR. These are fine particles that are suspended in air, prolonged exposure to which can cause respiratory problems.
Lal said at most dug-up sites, construction waste is lying in the open. Directions have been given to ensure water sprinkling at the sites and mechanical sweeping of key stretches, he said.
According to a study by IIT-Kanpur on sources of pollution in Delhi-NCR, published in 2016, road dust is the biggest culprit, contributing 56% to PM10 levels and 38% to PM2.5 levels.
The CPCB’s 41 inspection teams, conducting field surveys in Delhi and NCR towns, had also reported violations of open storage and dumping of C&D waste as well as waste burning. The South Delhi Municipal Corporation (SDMC) had on Sunday asked NBCC to immediately stop construction work at its project site in Pragati Maidan after violations were found there.
This is the second edition of GRAP — it was first implemented in 2017 with a ban on diesel generator sets in the capital.
“Currently, there is no peak in PM levels and all measures to tackle ‘poor’ category of pollution are being taken. We have asked the CPCB to submit a daily update of enforcement measures. In case the air quality level deteriorates, we will call an emergency meeting,” Sunita Narain, member, EPCA, said.
The GRAP is being implemented in Delhi, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh (UP) and Rajasthan. Officials of the North, South and East municipal corporations said they have started sprinkling of water and mechanized sweeping along select roads. “We have 40 tankers of our own and have hired 22 more for sprinkling water. Mechanical sweeping is being done at night,” a South municipal corporation official said.
While the South corporation has 18 mechanical sweepers, the North and East corporations have 12 and 10 machines, respectively. A single machine running at a speed of 3-4kmph can cover 35-40km of road length.
The CPCB had last week said the air quality is likely to deteriorate further by October-end as a result of a change in wind direction and speed.
“The wind speed on Monday fell to 4kmph from 10kmph Sunday, spiking pollution levels. By October-end, the wind speed will be zero, thereby trapping pollutants in the air. All measures under GRAP to tackle the poor air quality are being enforced,” a senior CPCB official said.
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