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Tuesday, Oct 22, 2019

Bad air measures kick in next week to check spike

An AQI in the range of 0-50 is considered ‘good’, 51-100 ‘satisfactory’, 101-200 ‘moderate’, 201-300 ‘poor’, 301-400 ‘very poor’ and 401-500 ‘severe’, as per norms laid down by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB).

india Updated: Oct 08, 2019 05:12 IST
HT Correspondents
HT Correspondents
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Union environment minister Prakash Javadekar earlier on Monday said the Delhi-NCR region was likely to have a better pre-winter period this year since several steps to combat such factors had been taken.
Union environment minister Prakash Javadekar earlier on Monday said the Delhi-NCR region was likely to have a better pre-winter period this year since several steps to combat such factors had been taken. (Burhaan Kinu/HT PHOTO)
         

Vacuum-cleaning and sprinkling of water on roads will be intensified, pollution hot spots put under closer scrutiny, and industrial emission regulations will be enforced more strictly from October 15, the Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority (Epca) said on Monday, announcing a slew of measures aimed at pre-empting a spike in pollution that is typical for this time of the year.

The measures are part of a graded response action plan (Grap), first drawn up in 2017, that defines specific actions – which begin with increased awareness campaigns when the air quality index (AQI) is between ‘moderate’ and ‘poor’ categories to more strict curbs such as bans on construction and road rationing for private vehicles once the AQI hits the ‘severe’ and ‘emergency’ levels.

“All measures listed under Grap’s ‘very poor’ and some from the ‘severe’ category will be implemented from October 15 as a precaution to not let air quality slip further. This time, our focus will be on intensive monitoring of 13 identified pollution hot spots and preventing any kind of burning of waste or use of unapproved fuels here,” said Sunita Narain one of the members of the Supreme Court-mandated Environment Pollution (prevention and control) Authority (Epca).

Epca also announced that a ban on diesel generators -- if the air quality is in the ‘emergency’ category for a 48-hour period -- will, for the first time, be implemented across National Capital Region (NCR) towns such as Noida, Gurugram and Ghaziabad. Until last year, the curbs were applicable only in Delhi since these towns face frequent power cuts that impact essential utilities such as elevators.

“We will be writing to district administrations of all vicinity towns to ensure there are no outages and to prepare a strategy to provide 24X7 electricity supply,” Narain said.

An AQI in the range of 0-50 is considered ‘good’, 51-100 ‘satisfactory’, 101-200 ‘moderate’, 201-300 ‘poor’, 301-400 ‘very poor’ and 401-500 ‘severe’, as per norms laid down by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB).

On Monday, following a meeting with representatives of states adjoining the national capital, Epca directed officials of the neighbouring towns of Jhajjar (Haryana), Dadri (Uttar Pradesh) and Panipat (Haryana) to enforce the 2019 emission standard and monitor the coal-based power plants in their areas.

Factors in neighbouring states such as Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh play a crucial role in Delhi’s air quality, particularly during the period between mid-October and mid-November when smoke from farm fires chokes the national capital.

Union environment minister Prakash Javadekar earlier on Monday said the Delhi-NCR region was likely to have a better pre-winter period this year since several steps to combat such factors had been taken.

“If the air [from farm fires] air comes to Delhi, the issue becomes serious. For this, the central government has provided assistance of ₹1,150 crore and 18,000 machines have been given to farmers in Punjab and Haryana. They will not need to burn the stubble,” he said.

Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal has announced that “odd-even” driving restriction – which requires cars to be driven on alternate days depending on whether their registration numbers end in odd or even digits – will be in place between November 4 and 15.

Epca member Narain said that while intensifying public transport is one of the crucial measures under Grap, it will be difficult to implement since the city has a limited fleet of buses. “We will be writing to Delhi Metro to intensify their services during this period,” she said. A Delhi Metro representative said they will respond after receiving the letter.

According to officials in the transport department, 25 new buses have been added to the state-run fleet but the strength is still at a little over 50% of the 10,000 buses needed.

So far this season, the air quality has remained in ‘satisfactory’ and ‘moderate’ categories, but with monsoon expected to withdraw from October 10, Delhi’s air quality is likely to deteriorate. On Monday, the AQI was 130, in the ‘moderate’ category, which is better than last year when it had reached ‘poor’ during this time of the year. “This is the transition phase; air quality can dip any time till winter sets in. This year we had extended monsoon and easterly winds coming in, which did not allow pollutants to settle. Once north-westerly winds start approaching, the air quality may deteriorate,” said D Saha, former head of CPCB air laboratory.

A senior official from the Haryana Pollution Control Board (HSPCB), who attended the meeting, said implementing the generator ban in NCR towns will be challenging because of poor power supply. “Commercial establishments, in particular, will continue to use DG sets in spite of the ban because it is the only alternative. Enforcement will have to be stepped up,” said this person, asking not to be identified. UP pollution control board regional manager Utsav Sharma said restrictions will be enforced and teams had begun increasing vigil.

First Published: Oct 08, 2019 01:34 IST

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