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Monday, Oct 14, 2019

Urgent directives to control air pollution issued by DC, EPCA, diesel generators allowed to run in ‘poor’ air quality

gurugram Updated: Oct 09, 2019 23:46 IST
Prayag Arora-Desai
Prayag Arora-Desai

According to official order, issued Wednesday, by the Supreme Court-appointed Environment Pollution (Prevention & Control) Authority (EPCA) and the district administration Diesel generators will be allowed during ‘moderate’ and ‘poor’ air quality conditions in towns across the National Capital Region (NCR), including Gurugram and Faridabad, even after October 15, when the Graded Response Action Plan comes into force.

The EPCA had earlier maintained that a “blanket ban” on diesel generators would be imposed in NCR towns. Speaking to HT, on October 8, EPCA chairman Bhure Lal had said, “Regardless of prevailing air conditions, the ban on diesel gensets will be imposed as a preventive measure.”

However, the latest developments indicate that generators will be banned only when air quality turns ‘very poor’ and ‘severe’.

“There will be a blanket ban on running diesel gensets under ‘very poor’ and ‘severe’ air quality conditions, which will be imposed from October 15,” said EPCA member Sunita Narain. The EPCA is, however, yet to send a list of exclusion services for which generator use will be permitted. Hospitals and elevators in apartment buildings are expected to be excluded from the ban.

Bhure Lal was not available for comment despite repeated attempts.

Deputy commissioner Amit Khatri, on Wednesday, issued “urgent” directives to 19 stakeholder officials and departments—Municipal Corporation of Gurugram (MCG), Gurugram Metropolitan Development Authority (GMDA), forest department, road transport authority (RTA) and Haryana State Pollution Control Board (HSPCB), among others—to keep a check on the worsening quality of air in Gurugram. These agencies have been given specific instructions to mitigate air pollution as part of the Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP).

The deputy commissioner’s letter (a copy of which is with the HT) stated, “With the festive season having begun and the corresponding cold kicking in, pollution levels in NCR are expected to rise. The performance of many of our departments is wanting and should quickly be improved to provide relief to citizens.”

Speaking to HT, Khatri said, “We have to engage various stakeholders now, and establish a coordinated process before the air quality gets worse. I will be asking for daily compliance reports from the departments.”

Tasks assigned by Khatri include enforcing a ban on diesel generators (by the HSPCB) only under ‘very poor’ and ‘severe’ air pollution conditions. This measure is also mentioned in a letter by the EPCA chief to the Haryana chief secretary on Wednesday, detailing “additional measures to combat air pollution” that are to be implemented in all NCR districts.

Lal’s letter to the Haryana chief secretary mentioned that the state electricity board must “ensure special efforts” to provide uninterrupted electricity in affected areas. “We hope that you will take these steps at the earliest so that the ban on diesel generators is effective,” the letter stated.

Tasks assigned to civic agencies by the district administration include mechanised road sweeping and solid waste management (MCG, GMDA), impounding of diesel vehicles over 10 years old (city police), prevention of illegal parking in Vikas Sadan (RTA), and to keep a check on crop residue burning (development and panchayat department).

The revenue department has been told to ensure “issuance of an order for imposing Section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, on or before Deepawali, including identification sites for sale and use of green crackers”. The additional deputy commissioner has been told to ensure the removal of any generators in the immediate vicinity of Gurugram’s only official air quality monitor at Vikas Sadan. The forest department has also been told to monitor Aravalli plantation sites for any sign of polluting activities.

The departments have been instructed to report their actions internally, and to respond to public complaints lodged on the Sameer mobile app. Each department is expected to appoint a nodal officer for implementation of the GRAP. Concerned officials have been warned of punitive action in case of violations that may be observed by the EPCA chairman on an impending field inspection. The date of Lal’s visit was not specified.

HSPCB regional officer, Gurugram, Kuldeep Singh said, “We are going to comply with all directions. Night patrolling has begun. We have already fined five major real estate projects ₹5 lakh each for violation of construction rules. We will also enforce a blanket ban on diesel generators and construction activities if air quality hits emergency levels.”

In addition to the staple GRAP protocol, the EPCA has instructed the HSPCB to also create “clear action plans for Gurugram, Faridabad and Bahadurgarh”, which have been identified as “pollution hotspots”. “The action plans will be submitted to the CPCB and the EPCA by October 15,” stated Bhure Lal’s Wednesday letter.

The plan for each hotspot will include sub-area wise tasks to be carried out along with periodicity of night patrolling.

Yet another additional measure, which has not yet been implemented in Haryana as part of the GRAP so far, but has been suggested by Bhure Lal, is revision of parking prices. However, this would be a challenge given the absence of a notified parking policy in Gurugram.

“The GRAP provides for enhancement of these (parking) charges during high pollution period. This can only be implemented once the parking charges have been notified and mandated,” Bhure Lal had said earlier.

Haryana has also been asked to submit a report on the status of its power plants, explaining whether they will be able to meet the latest safety regulations (notified in 2017 by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change) within this year, as directed. Based on this report, the EPCA is expected to consult with the MoEFCC on possible actions to deter pollution from the power generation sector.

First Published: Oct 09, 2019 23:46 IST

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