Delhi air pollution: EPCA cracks whip on govt, criticises lack of better systems, calls for stronger laws and measures
The Environment Pollution (Prevention & Control) Authority (EPCA) made the recommendations in its submission to the top court on strengthening Delhi-NCR’s Graded Response Action Plan.delhi Updated: Nov 13, 2017 23:44 IST
A Supreme Court-appointed panel on Monday admonished authorities in Delhi and the National Capital Region, reminding them that emergency measures could not be a substitute for long-term action in the fight against pollution.
In a strongly worded report on the enforcement of the anti-pollution Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP), the EPCA told the apex court that Delhi would need to take radical steps such as temporarily banning all diesel vehicles if the air quality did not get better.
Delhi is reeling from alarming pollution levels for one week, with the city’s air quality index (AQI) consistently above the “severe” mark. On Monday, the average daily AQI was 460 — the same as Sunday and close to the season-high 486 — exposing the administration’s inability to come up with viable solutions to deal with what has become an annual public health emergency.
The EPCA criticised the poor public transport system in Delhi and power shortage in NCR, calling them deterrents in implementing an anti-pollution plan. “In Delhi, there are fewer buses on the road than there were three years ago... The power situation across NCR is also unsatisfactory,” the report said.
The panel also asked for stronger laws so that clean air measures could be enforced in a time-bound manner. “Any direction is as good as its implementation… it is clear we need a better system,” the panel said.
Earlier on Monday, the Delhi government filed a petition before the National Green Tribunal (NGT), asking it to reconsider its position on the odd-even road rationing scheme. The plan, which allows only odd- and even-numbered vehicles on the roads on alternate days, was shelved last week after the NGT called it a “farce” and asked the Delhi government to implement it without special exemptions for two-wheelers and women drivers. The matter will be heard by the tribunal on Tuesday.
In more legal interventions into the city’s pollution crisis, a Supreme Court bench headed by the Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra on Monday sought responses from the Centre, the governments of Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Punjab, and the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) on steps taken to curb rising pollution and stubble burning.
The toxic haze engulfing the Capital has been attributed by experts to meteorological factors such as falling temperature, low wind speeds at the ground level and rising relative humidity, aggravated by high-altitude winds carrying toxins from burning crop-stubble in Punjab and Haryana.
Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal has been involved in public spats with Punjab chief minister Amrinder Singh, and on Monday with Haryana chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar over this issue.
Among other measures suggested by the EPCA were stickers that display which fuel private vehicles use and how old they are. The panel also called for an advance pollution warning mechanism, and for AQI readings to be converted to health advisories.
These recommendations will, however, require the Centre and Supreme Court’s approval to become a part of the GRAP.
Last Tuesday, when Delhi’s air quality index hit 448, the EPCA had announced a slew of measures, including a hike in parking rates and a ban on all construction activities. However, it took more than a day and a stern warning from lieutenant governor Anil Baijal for these to be implemented.
All this in spite of promises made by various authorities after Delhi experienced one of its most polluted winters in 2016, when the AQI had hit a peak of 497 and the smog in the city was in worst in 17 years. The situation prompted a series of measures to be put in place, but experts say the response of the administration has once again been reactive, after the city has already become — as Kejriwal himself described it — a “gas chamber”.
First Published: Nov 13, 2017 19:28 IST