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A year when Gurgaon gasped for breath

Although Gurgaon struggled to breathe clean air this year, 2018 holds promise as a new station to monitor air quality is proposed to be built

gurgaon Updated: Dec 24, 2017 23:31 IST
Ipsita Pati
Ipsita Pati
Hindustan Times
Poor air qulaity,AQI,smog
The city turned into a veritable gas chamber, as the air quality dropped to alarming levels after Diwali.(Sanjeev Verma/HT FILE)

As 2017 draws to a close and a new year dawns, the residents will be sending up silent prayers in the hope that there will be a turnaround in the city’s fortunes with regard to its air quality.

For, the year gone by will have left a scar that residents won’t be able to shake off in a hurry. The city turned into a veritable gas chamber, as the air quality dropped to alarming levels after Diwali. Cracker bursting and the burning of crop residue in neighbouring states had a debilitating impact on the city, as the residents gasped for air. Making matters worse, a think layer of smog blanketed the city, sending the air quality into a free fall.

The air quality index (AQI), which gives a measure of the city’s ambient air quality in real time, hit ‘severe’, at 494, on November 9. Alarmed, the government enforced the Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP), under which several extreme measures were implemented to check the soaring pollution levels in the city.

However, the new year may hold some promise, as the authorities have planned to install a new air monitoring station by March. The station will help authorities keep track of the air quality and take necessary steps to put a leash on runaway pollution in the city.

Every year, the AQI turns from moderate to poor and then, from very poor to severe, after Diwali as pollutants such as sulphur dioxide and suspended particulate matter (PM10), are released into the air. The deadly cocktail of stubble burning and open burning of waste only turns the air more toxic.

As the temperature dips with the onset of winter, the pollutants aren’t dispersed into the air and are trapped to the ground, resulting in smog.

Even though the GRAP was implemented in the city on October 22, the level of deadly pollutants in the city’s air hasn’t dipped.

As smog engulfed the city and pollution soared, all schools were shut down on November 10 and the order was in force till November 13.

Read I Gurgaon air pollution ‘severe’ for the first time since Diwali

On November 11, all manufacturing units emitting pollutants were directed to stop production in the wake of rising pollution levels in the city. However, units producing essential goods were exempted. The order, which was issued in compliance with directions issued by the National Green Tribunal (NGT), forced top automobile companies such as Maruti, Honda, Hero Moto Corp, their vendors, large garment units, food manufacturing plants to shut operations till November 14.

Officials of the Municipal Corporation of Gurugram (MCG) said that because of unchecked open waste burning, the city’s air quality continued to remain ‘poor’.

As per data available with the MCG, on an average, 12 cases of waste burning are reported in the city every day. The MCG has imposed fines on 111 violators in this year so far, up from 52 last year.

“Our teams are closely tracking cases of open waste burning and we have planned stricter measures against the violators to curb such cases. Also, we have proposed a waste segregation plant, which will help reduce open garbage burning,” Sudhir Chauhan, senior town planner, MCG, said.

Officials of Haryana State Pollution Control Board (HSPCB) said that a new air monitoring station will be installed in the city by March next year and will help them track air quality and suggest steps to mitigate pollution.

“At present, the city has only one air monitoring station which does not provide enough data for a comparative study. Thus, a new station has been proposed and it will be installed by March,” JB Sharma, regional officer, HSPCB, Gurgaon, said.

First Published: Dec 24, 2017 23:31 IST