The Delhi government Monday launched a campaign against air pollution pivoted around existing policies on mechanical sweeping of roads, inspection of construction sites, tree transplantation and flagging violations such as open burning of dry waste through mobile apps.
Addressing a webcast, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said the decision to launch the campaign — war against pollution — was taken at a meeting attended by officials of several agencies including the municipal corporations and traffic police.
Kejriwal said the coronavirus has made the situation particularly critical as it primarily affects the respiratory system.
“So this year pollution can be deadly (jaan lewa),” the CM said, seeking cooperation from neighbouring state governments to combat the scourge of pollution.
During winters, among the major sources of air pollution in Delhi are vehicular emissions, dust, stubble burning in neighbouring Punjab and Haryana, open burning of waste. The particulates get trapped near the surface due to fall in temperature, low wind speed and fog.
The state government is experimenting with a stubble decomposer — a product of the Indian Agricultural Research Institute, made up microbial enzymes — at the non-Basmati variant rice producing farms, covering 800 acres in the capital, to prevent stubble burning this year.
“If this (experiment) is successful, other state governments can also try and implement it…,” Kejriwal said. The solution being prepared is expected to decompose paddy straws left behind after harvest in 25 days.
He said inspection teams will be sent to major construction sites to check dust pollution. The CM also referred to mechanical sweepers at the disposal of the municipal corporations, and added that the agencies have been directed to repair potholes.
He said specific action plans will be prepared for the 13 pollution hotspots at Dwarka, Rohini, Okhla Phase II, Anand Vihar, Vivek Vihar, Punjabi Bagh, Wazirpur, Jahangirpuri, RK Puram, Bawana, Narela, Mundka and Mayapuri – areas identified by the Central Pollution Control Board.
Specific measures to be implemented at the hotspots were drawn up by the Supreme Court-mandated Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority as well as the DPCC in 2019 itself. The EPCA also inspected the hotspots last month and directed the Delhi government to start night patrolling at those areas from October 15.
Kejriwal said the government will soon launch a ‘Green Delhi app’ where people will be able flag violations such as burning of waste or visibly polluting vehicles. EPCA launched the first such app, ‘Hawa Badlo’, in October 2016. Two years later, CPCB launched the ‘Sameer’ app, which also has elaborate provisions for people to register complaints against air polluting activities and track the status of such complaints.
The CM said the government is drawing up a policy on transplantation under which any agency or institution felling trees will be expected to transplant at least 80% of the trees. A similar target was set by the government in its annual budget for 2019-20.
Experts say transplantation is a complicated process and the survival rate of transplanted trees is around 50%.
Moreover not all trees can be transplanted and the ones that can be shifted can cost up to Rs 1 lakh or more.
The CM also announced that the government will set up a war room on pollution for constant monitoring of its anti-pollution measures. He said while Delhi has shut its two coal-based thermal power plants, 11 such facilities remain functional within a radius of 300-km around the city, “violating pollution norms despite the SC’s directives”.
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