Better weather forecasts, health advisories need of the hour, says EPCA
The Supreme Court-appointed Environment Pollution Control and Prevention Authority (EPCA) on Monday stressed the importance of better weather forecasts, so that government agencies have advance notice of measures that need to be implemented under the Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP).Updated: Nov 14, 2017 17:52 IST
The Supreme Court-appointed Environment Pollution Control and Prevention Authority (EPCA) on Monday stressed the importance of better weather forecasts, so that government agencies have advance notice of measures that need to be implemented under the Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP).
“This year, the last information EPCA had on the prevailing weather conditions was on November 6, 2017. This did not provide any warning of the kind of anti-cyclonic weather disturbance that was happening in the upper circulatory system and the impending problems that it would bring,” the pollution panel said in a report submitted on GRAP enforcement to the Supreme Court on Monday.
On November 7, Delhi’s Air Quality Index (AQI) hit severe levels with 448. As of Monday night, it remains around similar levels. This was triggered by the anti-cyclonic weather, EPCA said.
“Two air circulatory systems — one bringing pollutants from crop burning in Punjab and Haryana, (and according to one theory, dust from multi-day dust storm in Iraq, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia) while the other bringing moisture from the east — collided over Delhi region. This formed a cloud of pollutants, trapped in moisture, which, combined with near-calm wind conditions at the ground-level, suffocated the region,” EPCA said.
According to the report, EPCA is provided no advance warning for sudden change in weather patterns, but only has information about the current state of pollution through the real-time monitoring of the AQI.
“But across the world, where such smog alert systems are in place, a robust and reliable weather forecasting system is essential for action,” it said.
A vastly strengthened system of health advisories for people to take preventive action is also required, EPCA said, acknowledging the limitations of the current web-based system where information on the level of pollution (AQI) and health impact is provided.
“There is a need to have wider dissemination of this information to the general public, through apps or other means. EPCA will discuss this with MoEF & CC, CPCB and state governments to see how such a system can be put in place,” it said.
A possible example for Delhi to follow would be that of Beijing, which introduced a four-tier colour-coded system to combat air pollution after the city faced heavy smog in 2013. The Chinese capital sends out pollution alerts on social media, television, radio and mobile apps. The information is also circulated through government accounts on Weibo (China’s Twitter) and WeChat.
Stressing on the need to include more measures that can bring immediate relief during future haze episodes, EPCA said that stubble burning in Punjab and Haryana may be a contributory factor, but it is not the only problem during winter.
“There may be a need for additional emergency measures like closure of all coal-based thermal plants and industries in the region. Currently, the Supreme Court has imposed a ban on pet coke and FO (furnace oil), but there may be a requirement to temporarily halt all other air polluting sources during peak smog periods,” the report says.