The Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority (EPCA) Tuesday announced that Delhi-NCR will be placed under the “very poor” and “severe” categories under the Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP).
“As per the action plan, several measures will be taken till March 15 to avoid the ‘severe+’ category that the region had suffered over the last year when a public health emergency was declared,” said Sunita Narain, the Director-General of Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), and member, EPCA. Ever since the GRAP was notified by the central government in January, Delhi-NCR has been under “moderate” and “poor” categories.
EPCA expects 32 air monitoring systems to be in place in the region over the next few weeks. “The AQI from these monitoring stations will look at PM 2.5 levels,” said A Sudhakar from the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB). “With this, combined with information from other agencies, we will be able to formulate a daily action plan to target problem areas,” he said, while warning that adverse weather conditions are expected the morning after Diwali.
“On October 20 morning, we expect moisture-laden south-easterly winds to blow into Delhi-NCR and increase pollution levels,” he said. On stubble burning, EPCA chairperson Bhure Lal said the problem was not new and they are getting people to change their ways slowly with technology.
“Farmers have a very small window between the kharif harvest and Rabi sowing season. For them, the easiest way is to burn stubble. Now, it is difficult to convince the older generation to give up the practice but the new generation is willing to take up new technologies that can uproot the stubble too. But this will take some time,” said Lal.
“The EPCA and all other agencies of the government are prepared to take tough decisions which we believe will help clear the air,” he added.
Elaborating on the measures taken till now, EPCA said brick kilns have been asked to shut or adopt the zig-zag technology that will force sediments to settle. The Badarpur thermal power plant has also been shut and the authority expects it to be permanently decommissioned by July 2018. The use of diesel generators in Delhi, too, has been banned. However the EPCA flagged that progress on public transport has been disappointing.
“Considering the magnitude of the problem, the issue of public transportation has been poorly dealt with in Delhi and NCR,” said Sunita Narain.