With Delhi’s pollution going up, watchdog begins to crack whip
The Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC) has launched a crack down on waste burning and industrial units using fuels that emit toxic fumes at 13 pollution hot spots across the city.
In Delhi, 13 areas — Okhla phase-II, Dwarka, Ashok Vihar, Bawana, Narela, Mundka, Punjabi Bagh, Wazirpur, Rohini, Vivek Vihar, Anand Vihar, R K Puram and Jahangirpuri — were identified as hot spots by the DPCC and the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) last year based on particulate matter (PM) concentrations. Pollution levels in these areas were found to be higher than the city’s average.
According to DPCC officials, during inspection drives, more than 20 such units using unapproved fuels in areas such as Mandoli in east Delhi have been issued notices.
“The drive has been going on for the past 10 days and notices have been issued to errant industrial units. The units have been given time to convert to piped natural gas (PNG), failing which the units will be shut down,” said a senior official, who did not wish to be named.
Earlier this month, the Supreme Court-mandated Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority (Epca) had asked the DPCC to direct all agencies concerned to formulate an action plan to curb pollution levels at the 13 hot spots sites ahead of winter.
It had also asked the DPCC and other agencies to start night patrolling at the hot spots from October 15.
Every year, Delhi’s pollution levels soar in winter due to a combination of factors, including changes in meteorology such as cold weather, calm winds, local emissions, coupled with stubble-burning in neighbouring states.
The pollution watchdog has also roped in industrial associations to keep a vigil and not allow dumping of waste, which is eventually put to fire.
“A number of spots such as Anand Vihar and Punjabi Bagh, among others where traffic congestion and dust pollution is a major issue, road owning agencies have been asked to pave the stretches and work out an arrangement with the traffic police to reduce congestion,” the official said.
DPCC has imposed fines amounting to Rs4 crore on 31 ready mix concrete (RMC) plants and eight large construction sites for violating air pollution control norms. The pollution control body also issued directions to stop construction and demolition work at four large sites for not installing anti-smog guns and causing air pollution.
“Steps taken to minimize dust emission were deficient at 31 RMC plants. Accordingly, action has been initiated. Penalties ranging between Rs 5 lakh and Rs 20 lakh have been imposed,” DPCC had said in a statement. “Directions have been issued to close 11 plants where violations were more serious,” it said.
The Central Public Works Department has been asked to stop work at CGO Complex and deposit an environmental compensation of Rs5 lakh for not taking dust control measures, including an anti-smog gun, the DPCC said.
In an action taken report prepared by the Epca based on inspection of 15 locations, including the hot spots and surrounding areas, the anti-pollution watchdog found that dumping of garbage/construction and demolition waste/industrial waste, road dust as well as traffic congestion are major contributors to high pollution levels in these areas.
Epca inspected several locations, mostly having confirmed and non-confirmed industrial pockets, during August-September.
“In most industrial areas, plastic, rubber and cloth waste was found dumped and burning in some places. More material was found stacked for burning. We have asked concerned agencies to file an action taken report in the matter before the next review meeting,” said Bhure Lal, Epca chairperson.
Meanwhile, the number of crop stubble burning cases in Punjab has been increasing over the past five days, especially in Amritsar district, satellite images released by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (Nasa) have shown. Nasa also warned that with plumes of smoke being seen over Delhi, the city’s air quality may also deteriorate in the coming weeks.
Delhi government data shows that last year stubble burning accounted for 44% of the city’s air pollution.
Anumita Roychowdhury, executive director, research and advocacy, Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) said that now with the opening up of the economy, the PM concentrations are again building up. “To curb overall pollution levels, there is a need for a spot-specific local solutions as well as city level systemic solution. For instance, paving an unpaved road could be a local solution, but in case of waste burning, a larger systemic solution is required so that it doesn’t get burnt at any time of the year. An interface between the two strategies is the need of the hour,” she said.