Diesel genset banned, Badarpur thermal power plant shut as Delhi air turns ‘very poor’
The Environment Pollution Control Authority (EPCA) on Tuesday implemented a series of measures, such as imposing a ban on diesel generator sets and temporarily shutting down the Badarpur thermal power plant, to curb pollution levels in the national capital region during the winter.
The Supreme Court-mandated panel warned that further steps, including effecting a fourfold hike in parking fees and shutting down polluting industries, will be implemented if the air quality degrades from ‘very poor’ to ‘severe’ in the coming days. “Hopefully, the city won’t witness such severe pollution levels this time. Otherwise, we will have no alternative but to shut down everything from vehicles to schools — bringing the entire city to a standstill,” said Sunita Narain, EPCA member and director of the Centre for Science and Environment.
These measures are part of a Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP) that came into force from Tuesday to address air pollution concerns in the national capital and its surrounding areas. The air quality in Delhi has already reached ‘very poor’ (AQI 308) levels, and experts have warned that it may turn ‘severe’ (AQI 401-500) on October 20 — the day after Diwali.
Brick kilns that don’t run on zig-zag technology, which reduces emissions by up to 75%, were also temporarily shut down by the EPCA. “Next, we may need to take drastic steps such as hiking the parking fees by at least three-four times, banning hot-mix plants (for road construction), and shutting down stone crushing units if the air quality deteriorates further,” said Narain. At present, municipalities charge a car parking fee of Rs 20 for the first hour.
However, the EPCA clarified that measures such as the odd-even car rationing policy — which restricts movement of private vehicles on the basis of their licence plate numbers — and closure of schools will be taken only as a “last resort” under the action plan’s emergency segment.
“The moisture level is increasing, and we expect foggy conditions on Diwali night. Too much smoke due to firecrackers and vehicular emissions could result in smog, which may linger for the next 24 hours,” said A Sudhakar, member-secretary of the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB). Delhi experienced its worst ordeal with smog in 17 years right after last year’s Diwali celebrations.
CPCB data revealed that pollution at three places — Delhi’s Anand Vihar, Uttar Pradesh’s Ghaziabad and Rajasthan’s Bhiwadi — has already hit ‘severe’ levels. “As these are the most polluted places in the region, they will be our first targets. We will analyse the reasons and take immediate action,” said EPCA chairman Bhure Lal.
EPCA members fear that their attempts to reduce air pollution in Delhi could be negated by the limitations of its public transport system. “The ridership of Delhi’s bus fleet is declining. GRAP places heavy emphasis on intensifying the use of public transport systems during periods of high pollution. All our efforts may go down the drain if that is lacking,” said Narain.
In 2016, the Delhi government had launched the odd-even rationing scheme on city roads when air pollution reached critical levels.