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Sunday, December 05, 2021

Delhi air quality: 1,000 more CNG buses to curb vehicular pollution

At the 13 air pollution hotspots in Delhi, water spraying systems of the fire brigade will be deployed in addition to the water sprinkling systems already in place.

Written by Abhinaya Harigovind | New Delhi |
Updated: November 18, 2021 8:14:42 am
At the 13 air pollution hotspots in Delhi, water spraying systems of the fire brigade will be deployed in addition to the water sprinkling systems already in place. (PTI photo)

The Delhi government will hire 1,000 private CNG-run buses to augment the public transport system as an emergency measure aimed at curbing vehicular pollution, according to Environment Minister Gopal Rai. The process to hire the buses will begin on Thursday.

Rai was speaking after a meeting with officials of different government departments on Wednesday to discuss the implementation of the directions issued by the Commission for Air Quality Management (CAQM) late on Tuesday to deal with rising air pollution levels.

Since the buses and Metro are now running without permitting standing travel, Delhi Transport Corporation and Delhi Metro have written to the Delhi Disaster Management Authority to reconsider this in order to increase the capacity of the existing public transport system, Rai said.

At the 13 air pollution hotspots in Delhi, the water spraying system of the fire brigade will be deployed, in addition to the water sprinkling systems already in place. A total of 372 water tankers are currently being used to spray water.

For action, the Transport Department has given a list to the police of diesel vehicles older than 10 years and petrol vehicles older than 15 years. Checking for Pollution Under Control certificates at petrol pumps will be intensified.

Industries still running on polluting fuels will be shut down. The Delhi Police and the Transport Department have been instructed to stop the entry of trucks into Delhi, apart from those carrying essentials. The government’s ‘Red Light On, Gaadi Off’ campaign has been extended for another 15 days, from November 19 onwards.

Directions issued by the CAQM, including shutting all schools till further orders and ban on construction and demolition activities till November 21, will be implemented. The Delhi government had earlier banned construction and demolition activities till November 17. Government offices will all work from home till November 21.

The matter of pollution is not black and white, Rai said. There are two parts to Delhi’s pollution — one is from within and the other is from outside, which includes pollution from NCR and stubble burning, Rai said. The governments need to find a solution to stubble burning, not farmers, he added.

This month so far, Delhi has recorded eight ‘very poor’ air days and eight ‘severe’ air days, going by Central Pollution Control Board bulletins. The city’s first ‘severe’ air day was recorded on Nov 5, nearly two weeks ago.

“One advantage that Delhi has is that SAFAR has a forecasting system for Delhi. The purpose of a forecasting system is to help with this kind of decision making – that you anticipate a problem and take preemptive and preventive action. That’s the way it needs to be operated. If you already have the Graded Response Action Plan and the forecasting system, it is more important to focus on preventive action and not take action as a postscript. From our past experience, we know it is going to be a difficult period. Emergency action is not a magic bullet, though it might reduce people’s exposure,” said Anumita Roychowdhury, executive director, research and advocacy, Centre for Science and Environment.

The air quality index on Wednesday was 375, in the ‘very poor’ category. The SAFAR forecast issued on Wednesday suggests that the AQI is likely to remain ‘very poor’ for the next two days, since wind speed is low and ventilation is poor, making the dispersion of pollutants difficult. Wind direction is from the east of Delhi, and the impact of stubble burning is “negligible,” according to the SAFAR forecast. The contribution of stubble burning to PM2.5 levels in Delhi was 6% on Wednesday, down from a peak of around 48% on Nov 7. The effective farm fire count on Wednesday was 2643, higher than the 1820 recorded on Tuesday.

The air quality could improve from Nov 20 onwards since surface winds are likely to be strong, dispersing pollutants, the forecast read.

An order was issued by the Environment Department on Wednesday detailing the measures that are to be implemented, after the CAQM issued its directions.

A second order issued by the Environment Department said that all offices of the Delhi government/autonomous bodies/ corporations shall remain closed with immediate effect till Nov 21, except those involved in essential and emergency services including Health and Family Welfare, police, prisons, fire and emergency services, Environment Department, DPCC, PWD, Electricity, water and sanitation and public transport.

All private offices are advised to allow their staff to work from home so as to ensure least vehicular movement till Nov 21, the order stated.

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