Delhi launches plan for war on pollution
Chief minister Arvind Kejriwal on Monday announced a “Yuddh Pradushan Ke Virudh” (war against pollution) campaign, with a seven-point action plan ranging from measures to control dust and mitigate hot spots, to a mobile application for complaints to a “war room” for monitoring.
Addressing a digital press conference, Arvind Kejriwal said the activities under this programme will continue through winter months, when pollution peaks and plunges Delhi into a public health emergency every year.
He said keeping pollution levels low was even more crucial than usual this year because Covid-19 directly affects the lungs of those infected by it, and pollution could make the situation worse.
“October has started, and we know that every year, the level of pollution rises in the months of October, November, and December in the Capital. One of the biggest reasons for this rise in pollution is the burning of crop stubble in Delhi and the nearby areas, due to which farmers and their families have to bear the maximum brunt of the pollution caused by stubble burning,” he said, reiterating the state government’s position that farm fires in Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh were the biggest components to spike in bad air in Delhi.
The chief minister did not mention the odd-even road rationing scheme, which was one of the biggest innovations by the government to attempt to control vehicular emissions, and which is part of the Graded Response Action Plan (Grap) enforced under certain conditions by the Supreme Court-appointed Environment Pollution (Prevention & Control) Authority (Epca).
When asked if Delhi will see another odd-even drive, a Delhi government spokesperson said, “We have stringently followed Grap in the past and will continue enforcing it in the future too.”
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Experts said that while the steps taken by the government were welcome, the real test would lie in their implementation.
Unveiling the components of the anti-pollution campaign, Kejriwal said the first action point of the campaign was to control stubble burning within Delhi.
“This year, Pusa Agricultural Research Institute has devised a very cheap and simple solution. They have formulated a fermented liquid solution which is to be sprayed on the fields to soften the stubble and prevent its burning. This year, the Delhi government will spray the solution on the basmati rice farm fields for free. If this technique is successful in Delhi, we can tell the other states to implement the same to prevent stubble burning. The Delhi government is preparing the mixture in Delhi on a large scale, and the process will start tomorrow under the guidance of the Pusa Research Institute,” Kejriwal said.
The second point is an anti-dust drive in which construction sites will be strictly and regularly monitored, municipal corporations will carry out mechanical sweeping of roads, smog guns will be used, and road-owning agencies will be asked to fill potholes to prevent road dust.
The government has identified 13 major hot spots where Kejriwal said an “area-specific” action plan will be executed. The areas are Okhla Phase-II, Dwarka, Ashok Vihar, Bawana, Narela, Mundka, Punjabi Bagh, Wazirpur, Rohini, Vivek Vihar, Anand Vihar, RK Puram and Jahangirpuri — all classified as hot spots by the Delhi Pollution Control Committee and Central Pollution Control Board last year based on high particulate matter concentration.
“We will be launching the Green Delhi App this month. If you witness a source of pollution, including vehicular and industrial emissions, click a photo, and post it on the app. We have specified a deadline for each type of complaint. I will personally monitor the grievance redressal. We are also creating a ‘war room’ against pollution for monitoring of various measures that are implemented and have to be implemented in the coming days. I will get the daily report of the frequency, impact and success of these activities,” the chief minister said, adding that more activities will be added under the campaign in the coming months.
He also talked about two policies which the Delhi government has been working on for more than a year now -- the Delhi tree transplantation policy, and the Delhi electric vehicle policy.
“The tree transplantation policy will be passed in about 10 days. Under the policy, if an agency cuts a tree for, say, construction purposes, they have to ensure scientific transplantation of a minimum of 80% of affected trees, over and above the compensatory afforestation of planting of 10 saplings. Also, the subsidies under the notified EV policy will also be soon rolled out,” Kejriwal said.
The head of the SC-appointed Epca, Bhure Lal, said several measures announced under the campaign were steps which authorities anyway have to carry out during the winter months under the Grap every year.
“What is important is the enforcement — be it burning of waste, use of unapproved fuels by industries or construction companies adhering to dust -control norms. The agencies, including municipal corporations have to ensure strict enforcement of all measures given in the action plan, especially during the prevailing Covid pandemic. Polluted air affects lungs, which can further complicate the situation with Covid-19 also affecting the lungs,” Bhure Lal added.
The Delhi chief minister also appealed to neighbouring states to control pollution by supporting farmers in providing a free alternative to burning stubble, and called for problems being faced by thousands of brick kilns in Delhi’s vicinity to be addressed.