As the air quality in Delhi improved on Thursday, the Environment Pollution Control Authority (EPCA) lifted the ban on construction activities, entry of trucks and reduced fourfold parking fee across the National Capital Region. The emergency measures taken as a part of the Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP) were immediately unleashed on November 8 after the air quality deteriorated and thick smog enveloped the region.
In a letter written to the chief secretaries of Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Punjab and Haryana on Thursday morning, EPCA chairperson Bhure Lal directed them to lift the enforced measures with “immediate effect” as the present pollution levels did not warrant such tough action. However, steps such as the closure of the Badarpur thermal power plant, ban on brick kilns, hot mix plants and stone crushers will continue to remain.
“We are watching the situation very carefully and we have been informed by the India Meteorological Department and the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology that pollution may rise again because of increased moisture in the air in the coming days. However, if the conditions continue to improve and air quality stabilises, we will review the measures under the ‘Severe’ category and inform you accordingly,” Bhure Lal wrote.
In the letter, the EPCA Chairperson also added that hiked parking fees did not deter people from using private vehicles and that the measure turned out to be “ineffective” due to lack of public transport and laxity in acting against illegal parking. Writing to Lt Governor Anil Baijal, Delhi Transport Minister Kailash Gahlot also called the move counterproductive. He also alleged that people began resorting to illegal parking or using mall parking facilities in order to avoid the raised price.
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NGT asks Delhi govt to submit report on air quality
The National Green Tribunal, meanwhile, directed the Delhi government to submit the data of ambient air quality and that it would consider lifting the ban on construction and industrial activity based on the report. The green body has asked the government to submit the report by Friday and that no construction activity can be started till then. The panel has also directed schools and colleges to install rainwater harvesting systems within the coming two months. Violators would be fined Rs 5 lakh.
Meanwhile, in order to keep a tab on crop burning – a key source of pollution – Power Minister R K Singh said that the state-run NTPC will float a tender to buy farm stubble at Rs 5,500 per tonne for use as fuel at its power plants. The minister also added that this step could help farmers to earn an average of Rs 11,000 per acre from the sale of stubble/straw pellets.
Airtel Half Marathon to go as planned
The Delhi High Court has also asked the Centre and AAP government’s senior bureaucrats to not discuss immediate measures such as spraying of water, but instead focus on long-term measures such as cloud seeding. It has also allowed the Airtel Half Marathon to proceed as planned after the organisers submitted that they have put in a refund policy for those runners who want to opt out and there are measures in place to deal with medical emergencies. After the pollution levels rose dramatically in the city, the Kejriwal-led government had requested to postpone the marathon.
Delhi govt requests NCR to implement GRAP measures, including odd-even
The Delhi government has also requested EPCA asking it to “advise” cities in the National Capital Region (NCR) to implement measures under the Graded Response Action Plan, including the odd-even scheme. Transport Minister Kailash Gehlot in a letter to EPCA chairperson said that efforts taken by Delhi would be in vain in case similar measures were not adopted in the NCR. “Unless the GRAP is implemented across all the NCR towns, pollution levels in Delhi, as well as the neighbouring towns, cannot be brought down.”
Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath has directed municipal corporations to ensure that garbage is not burnt and the sprinkling of water to control dust. He also asked the district magistrates to run awareness campaigns, so as to stop farmers from burning farm waste. He also directed the decongestion of the Kaisarbagh bus stand in Lucknow. Observing that traffic jam leads to air pollution, the chief minister said, “Proper traffic operations and movement should be ensured so that there is no traffic jam. To reduce air pollution, old vehicles should be reviewed, and if needed they will be removed.” Adityanath has also instructed the officials to make sure that trenches along the construction site of Lucknow Metro rail are filled so that dust pollution can be minimised.
Smog to stay, suggests an American atmospheric organisation
Meanwhile, if reports from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), an American atmospheric organisation are to be believed, the smoggy conditions will continue to persist in the country for the next few months. “This is just the start to the smog season in northern India and Pakistan, as the monsoon will last for much of the upcoming winter. That means there are plenty of more opportunities for cold, stagnant air to fill with pollution, turning cities into dangerously unhealthy snow globes,” PTI quoted the organisation as saying in a statement. Widespread smog caused by the combustion of fuels and the burning of crops and fires are the top reasons for the situation in the Northern India, it said. NOAA also said that stagnant atmospheric conditions added to the pollution.
On the other hand, the Pune-based System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting and Research (SAFAR) has identified a West Asian dust storm as the chief trigger behind the recent smog episode in the region. On November 8, the contribution of the dust storm was 40 per cent, eclipsing the role of emissions from stubble burning, which stood at 25 per cent, it said. “Rest was made up of emissions from local sources such vehicular combustion. If external sources did not have any role, levels of PM2.5 during this period could have been around 200 µg/m3,” the report stated. The report also said that the emergency measures that were kicked-in, yielded positive results, putting the gains at around 15 per cent in terms of percentage.
(With PTI inputs)