With air pollution spiking in the capital and its neighbouring towns and the ASEAN Summit coming up next month, a Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) task force has recommended that brick kilns, hot mix plants and stone crushers be closed in the area with immediate effect and coal-based industries be shut between January 15 and January 30.
The recommendations of the task force, according to the head of the air laboratory at CPCB, Dipankar Saha, are binding on the governments of Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan.
“The Task Force reviewed air quality situation for Delhi-NCR. Continuous emergency level air quality is noted since 7 am on December 21 and the IMD has forecast low winds and moderate/dense fog in the morning. In view of the present scenario and the ASEAN summit proposed in Delhi from January 19-30, we have recommended the actions,” a statement issued by CPCB said.
On Thursday, the air quality index for Delhi at 4 pm read 469 of a maximum of 500. The situation was much worse at Ghaziabad, where the AQI touched 500.
The Supreme Court mandated Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority (EPCA) too wrote to NCR states, asking them to gear up for controlling pollution through actions suggested under the emergency category.
This includes ban on entry of trucks, construction activities and the implementation of the odd-even scheme.
EPCA chairperson Bhure Lal has asked Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Punjab and Rajasthan to intensify ground-level action to tackle the severely polluted air.
Under the Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP), pollution is considered at emergency levels when readings of PM2.5 is above 300 micrograms per cubic metre and that of PM10 is above 500 micrograms per cubic metre.
At 7.30 pm on Thursday, the levels were 276 micrograms per cubic metre and 419 micrograms per cubic metre respectively. GRAP’s emergency measures are implemented when the pollutant concentration is at these levels for 48 hours at a stretch.
The Delhi government had, in November, announced the implementation of the odd-even vehicle rationing scheme, whereby only half of the vehicles, barring two-wheelers, those being driven by women, and emergency vehicles, would be allowed on roads each day depending on the last digit of their number plate.
However, the plan was not implemented as the National Green Tribunal said the government should remove the exemption to vehicles driven by women and two-wheelers. The government had expressed its inability to do so and the plan was put in abeyance.
According to officials present at the meeting, closing thermal power plants in NCR was also discussed as they are a major source of pollution but the idea was rejected as it would lead to the usage of more diesel generator sets.