After chairing an emergency Cabinet meeting on rise in air pollution, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal on Sunday announced a ban on construction and demolition activity for the next five days and shutting down the city’s Badarpur power plant for the next 10 days. Except for emergency services, generator sets are not allowed to function in Delhi for the next 10 days. Sprinkling of roads will begin from Monday and vacuuming from November 10 to contain dust pollution, Kejriwal said.
Officials will bear financial penalties if leaves burning cases are reported in their area, he added. Preparations to implement the Odd-Even road rationing scheme are to begin again, the chief minister said. He also announced that schools in the city were to remain shut for the next three days.
On October 31, the day after Diwali, the city woke up to the season’s worst air quality as smoke from Diwali fireworks, coupled with moisture and nearly stagnant wind movement, shrouded the city in a thick cover of smog. Commuters found it difficult to find their way as the visibility level had plunged to near zero levels in many areas.
Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia had on November 1 called a high-level preparatory meeting where he said the government would have to take “aggressive” measures to curb air pollution at the onset of winter in the capital.
Sisodia had held the meeting with various departments, and had announced that the government was to take measures including the use of sprinklers and mist fountains, smoke tappers in crematoriums, and a waste management system to minimise the emission of methane gas released due to burning at landfill sites.
Since dust is a major contributor to air pollution, various dust control measures, including vacuum cleaning of roads, sprinkling water through jets, and installation of air purifiers and mist fountains will be carried out, Sisodia had said.
Sprinklers, he said, would prevent dust from rising and dust particles would flow into drains with the water. Vacuum cleaning and sprinkling of water on all roads will be conducted on a weekly basis, he said.
The minister said about 90 per cent of the dust comes from construction sites, and that there are 61 major sites in Delhi. “We will ask people to come forward with complaints. When complaints are received, we will take action against them,” the deputy chief minister had said.
The Delhi Pollution Control Committee has been asked to take regular action against construction sites with a built up area of over 20,000 sq m, and submit a detailed note to Sisodia, said government officials.
Sisodia said while the use of wood at crematoriums is common, burning of wood adds to air pollution. “This is a matter of religion and sentiments, that is why we will not interfere with it. Instead, the environment department will involve the MCDs that control crematoriums and install smoke tappers in them to make them green crematoriums.”
He added that most of the crematoriums in the city were located in densely populated areas, and all available technology will be used to curb air pollution.
On Saturday, Kejriwal described Delhi as a toxic gas chamber and blamed neighbouring state farmers for adding to the city’s pollution woes by burning crop stubble. “Pollution levels in Delhi are so high that Delhi has become a gas chamber. Smoke from other states because of stubble burning and meteorological factors are responsible. The environment minister should call an emergency meeting of the chief ministers of Delhi and its neighbouring states on Monday so that immediate steps to tackle the issue can be taken… This situation needs the intervention of the Centre at the highest level. Farmers should be given incentives to find alternates to burning stubble,” said Kejriwal after meeting Union Minister for Environment Anil Madhav Dave.