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Friday, Nov 15, 2019

CPCB says let employees work from home, carpool to work to curb air pollution in Delhi

Schools should also provide transport to students to avoid the bunching of private vehicles outside, said CPCB member secretary Prashant Gargava.

india Updated: Oct 19, 2019 05:25 IST
Soumya Pillai and Jayashree Nandi
Soumya Pillai and Jayashree Nandi
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
A view of the moving metro as smog engulfs the Delhi skyline.
A view of the moving metro as smog engulfs the Delhi skyline.(Mohd Zakir/HT PHOTO)
         

Environmental authorities recommended on Friday that companies encourage employees to work from home or carpool to work, while a separate meeting involving officials from other states exposed new challenges to a proposed ban on diesel-run backup generators, complicating efforts to prepare for an air pollution crisis expected in the coming weeks.

A Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) official said private and government offices in Delhi and the national capital region (NCR) should allow employees to work from home and encourage them to carpool or use public transport in order to reduce pollution during winter months.

Schools should also provide transport to students to avoid the bunching of private vehicles outside, said CPCB member secretary Prashant Gargava, adding: “These recommendations are advisory in nature, but people’s participation will definitely go a long way in the fight against pollution.”

“We will be sending these recommendations to Environment Protection (Prevention and Control) Authority (EPCA) for approval,” Gargava added.

The EPCA is a Supreme Court-appointed committee overseeing efforts to combat pollution, including those that need to be followed in surrounding states of Haryana, Punjab and Uttar Pradesh.

On Friday, during a meeting with officials of UP and Haryana to review implementation of the graded response action plan (Grap), the EPCA was informed that at least 16 colonies in Gurugram’s old sectors and most of the new 58 sectors built after 2007 run entirely on diesel generators since they do not have regular power supply.

“Grap will be enforced this year in sectors which have power supply. Rest of the areas it cannot be enforced now but we will ask for timelines and fix it,” said Sunita Narain, EPCA member.

While no immediate estimates were available, experts said that letting such a high number of generators continue running will add significant amount of pollutants.

“Running a diesel genset of 800KW for an hour puts out around 160 gm of PM (particulate matter), which is equivalent to the PM emission by about 2,370 BS-VI diesel cars in one hour. Our planners and electric utilities must work to provide power to societies running on diesel generator sets without power supply,” said Chetan Agarwal, a Gurgaon-based environmental analyst.

An 800KW generator can usually serve around 250 homes.

Grap is a protocol that mandates automatic curbs on some activities, one of which is the use of diesel power generators when pollution enters the “very poor” or “severe” category.

Haryana officials submitted a list of housing colonies and commercial establishments running on backup generators.

Trilok Chand Gupta, secretary, power, Haryana government said the state is power surplus and has vastly improved its transmission and distribution network but cannot supply power to a very large number of housing sectors and hence Grap cannot be implemented.

In the 16 large sectors listed, private developers did not lay infrastructure for power supply despite being required to do so and have not yet made payments for the administration to carry out the work.

EPCA officials said they were shocked at the submission. “Power by DG set (diesel generator set) is not allowed in environment impact assessment to get ECs (environmental clearance). How did they get it? All these projects require environmental clearances. They are massive,” said Narain.

“The basic mistake has been made. Occupancy certificate should not have been issued. Without power supply, it amounts to a slum,” said Bhure Lal, EPCA head.

The Haryana government moved the National Green Tribunal (NGT) recently against EPCA’s October 9 order that recommended the ban on diesel generator sets (other than emergency services) in Delhi-National Capital Region. The NGT turned the plea down.

Lal chastised Haryana officials, asking why no action had been taken in the three years since the pollution crisis started becoming an annual occurrence. “We are now hearing that all of Gurgaon will go into darkness if we implement Grap,” added Narain.

Officials from Uttar Pradesh said they could not explain why generator usage was high in areas like Ghaziabad and Noida. An EPCA member present in the meeting said the state’s representative put the daily power supply to Ghaziabad at 23.37 hours, a claim that was “vastly different” from the situation on the ground assessed by authorities.

Haryana and UP will submit all details of how Grap can be enforced in their states by October 22 after Haryana election.

Delhi’s air quality has been deteriorating over the last week, with scientists from the India Meteorological Department (IMD) forecasting a further dip in pollution levels after Diwali on October 27. On Friday, the air quality index (AQI) was recorded as 248, in the “poor” category. On Thursday, the AQI was 284.

The IMD said that on Friday easterly winds blew in Delhi with a speed of 6kmph. Till Tuesday, the pollution levels are likely to remain in control.

BLAME GAME

The CPCB’s recommendation for offices to consider a work-from-home plan triggered an angry reaction from the Delhi government, which accused the agency of “blaming” the people of Delhi for a surge in pollution levels in the city.

“The CPCB’s statement today (Friday) is a classic case of political misuse of supposedly independent institutions. It is behaving like a spokesperson of the ruling BJP. By totally ignoring the role of stubble burning in the spike in air pollution in the national capital, the CPCB is giving a clean chit to neighbouring states, despite their utter failure in ending the practice of stubble burning,” said Raghav Chadha, national spokesperson for the capital’s ruling Aam Aadmi Party .

Delhi BJP’s Manoj Tiwari hit back, saying: “CM sir, it’s not Delhi’s people but the Delhi’s government. You are the reason for Delhi breathing foul air. Don’t pretend to be their well wishers.”