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Pollution control panel wants week’s weather forecast to prepare better

EPCA points to Beijing’s 14-day prediction, says current two-day alerts not enough to prepare for pollution spikes

delhi Updated: Nov 25, 2017 23:34 IST
Ritam Halder
Ritam Halder
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
pollution,smog,delhi pollution
A firefighter sprays water on trees as part of the anti-pollution measures to improve air quality in Delhi on Thursday. (PTI)

A top pollution prevention panel has urged the meteorological department to give out at least a week’s forecast for weather.

The pollution-prevention body said the current two-day prediction was not sufficient to implement the emergency response plan that is required to kick-in everytime the pollution in the National Capital turns ‘severe’.

“Beijing and other cities across the world have 15 days pollution forecasts, which helps them strategise better. We need at least seven days’ forecasts, can’t have a two-day alert Give us a chance to be prepared and take action,” EPCA member Sunita Narain told MeT department officials on Friday.

The EPCA — Environment Pollution Control and Prevention Authority (EPCA) — is a Supreme Court-appointed committee and holds the power to implement the Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP), a protocol that will put restrictions on factories and vehicles to pre-empt pollution.

The National Capital Region went through an unprecedented pollution crisis earlier this month when the air became unfit to breathe for a week, staying in “severe” category between November 7 and 14. The worst was on November 9, when the Air Quality Index hit 486.

According to EPCA, the most advanced prediction it had before November 7 was of November 6.

“It said winds will come from Punjab. But it 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… In the future, we have to ensure that there is no episode like this,” Narain said.

Dust from the Gulf region was later identified as the main reason for the smog crisis, contributing slightly more than the crop burning in agrarian states surrounding the NCR zone.

According to the report, EPCA is provided no advance warning for sudden change in weather patterns, but only has information about current state of pollution through 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.

REGULAR ALERTS

In Friday’s meeting, the EPCA decided that alerts will be sent out in newspapers when the air quality is in “very poor”, “severe” and “severe plus” levels. In Delhi, according to Delhi Pollution Control Committee officials, the health department was already doing it.

The EPCA urged representatives of several states to make sure the alerts are frequent. Some state officials said they will do it once in a fortnight, to which Narain suggested it be done daily.

CONSTRUCTION BAN BANE

The ban on construction activities during the emergency levels of pollution had left migrant labourers in the lurch as contractors refused to pay them, the Delhi government told EPCA.

The pollution panel has now decided to review the issue, which forced many labourers to leave, and hammer out a solution.

EPCA chairman Bhure Lal and member Sunita Narain have stressed that contractors would have to pay the labourers during the period of the ban.

But officials from Delhi and the National Capital Region (NCR) states, in the meeting, pointed out that in the absence of any legislation that provides the workers the safety of paid leave, it becomes next to impossible to enforce it.

First Published: Nov 25, 2017 12:27 IST