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No construction in Delhi till Nov 10, violators to face action

Central Pollution Control Board teams deployed in Delhi, Ghaziabad, Noida, Gurgaon and Faridabad, found the compliance rate of the agencies concerned in following the directives was “very poor”.

india Updated: Oct 27, 2018 23:07 IST
HT Correspondent
Delhi pollution,Delhi air pollution,Harsh Vardhan
Union Minister for Science & Technology, Earth Sciences and Environment, Forest & Climate Change Harsh Vardhan in a meeting with the members of all the field teams deputed by Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), in New Delhi, October 27, 2018. (PTI)

Environment officials announced a complete ban on construction and excavation work across the national capital region on Saturday, and the government said that officials who fail to stop such activities despite receiving tip-offs will face criminal prosecution. The announcements are the latest in a series of measures meant to combat air pollution, which is expected to enter unhealthy levels from November 1 and possibly turn hazardous over the remaining month – an occurrence that has become an annual affair over recent years.

“After receiving a complaint regarding any kind of pollution, we will wait for two days for the agency concerned to take action. If no action is taken, we will issue a warning – if that does not work, then the CPCB (Central Pollution Control Board) can initiate criminal proceedings against the agency on the fifth day,” said Union environment minister, Harsh Vardhan. “We won’t hesitate no matter how powerful the agency or the officer is,” he said.

Complaints can be made using the government’s Sameer mobile application, which is available for Apple and Android devices.

The Supreme Court-appointed Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority (Epca) on Saturday accepted a recommendation from the CPCB to ban all construction work and operations of hot mix plants and stone crushers in Delhi-NCR region between November 1 and 10, a period that meteorological experts have forecast to be polluted. The air in that period is expected to carry in pollutants from farm fires in Punjab and Haryana, where farmers set fire to crop remnants in order to clear their fields for the sowing season that starts in the second week of the month.

The Epca also ordered police officials in NCR regions to fine vehicles that have visibly polluting emissions.

All industries that run on coal and biomass (excluding thermal power plants and waste-to-energy plants) will have to shut down between November 4 and 10, and governments have been asked to intensify patrolling, including night patrolling, in industrial areas and pollution ‘hot spots’.

On Saturday, pollution forecasting agency Safar said that 32% of the pollutants in Delhi’s air in the last 24 hours came from farm fires in the neighbouring states. Farm fires largely contribute to PM2.5 concentration – particles that are 50 times finer than width of a human hair. PM2.5 particles can cause serious lung-related health problems at high levels.

Vardhan said farm fires alone are not to blame for the pollution problem. “It is not right to say that pollution is only being triggered by stubble burning from neighbouring states. We should also try to tackle the sources inside our boundary which are pushing up pollution levels,” he said.

Delhi environment minister, Imran Hussain, said Delhi “has already taken a series of measures to keep pollution under check”. “I would again appeal to the Union minister to convene a meeting of minister of all NCR states so that pollution levels could be tackled in entire NCR in a comprehensive manner,” he added.

On Friday, experts advised people to avoid strenuous physical activity such as running and jogging during the November 1-10 period. The advisory also urged people to avoid using private vehicles and keep windows and doors that face roads closed.

Experts welcomed the crackdown on agencies that drag their feet on complaints. At least 34% of Delhi’s PM2.5 pollution during winter is generated by local sources, a recent study by The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) had found.

“This will act as a deterrent for any agency that fails to control local pollution. If implemented it will help to bring down at least the local pollution,” said D Saha former head of the CPCB’s air quality laboratory.

First Published: Oct 27, 2018 18:52 IST