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UPSC Essentials: One word a day – GRAP

What is GRAP? Know about this word often seen in news. Explore beyond the word to briefly related essential questions including an important report for prelims or mains. Don't miss the MCQ and Post Read Q&A.

UPSC, GRAP, CAQM. AQI, DELHI Pollution, World Air Quality Report 2021, upsc essentials, one word a day, sarkari naukri, government jobs, current affairs for UPSCThe GRAP was first notified in January 2017 by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change. ((File/Express photo by Prem Nath Pandey)

Take a look at the essential concepts, terms, and phenomena from the static and current parts of the UPSC-CSE. The Post Read Q&A will help you to self-evaluate your retention memory after reading the article.

Word: GRAP

Subject: Environment and Climate

Relevance: Terms associated with the environment and climate change form potential questions for UPSC-CSE. We go beyond the term to discuss CAQM and World Air Quality Report. The report has certain suggestions which can be quoted in Mains GS III.

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Why in news?

— The Commission for Air Quality Management (CAQM) said on Wednesday (October 5) that measures under ‘Stage-1’ of the Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP) will be enforced in the NCR with immediate effect.

— The order came after Delhi’s AQI deteriorated to be in the ‘poor’ category on Wednesday. Other parts of the NCR, including Gurgaon, Noida and Greater Noida, also recorded ‘poor’ air quality on Wednesday.

What is the Graded Response Action Plan?

— GRAP is a set of emergency measures that kick in to prevent further deterioration of air quality once it reaches a certain threshold. Stage 1 of GRAP is activated when the AQI is in the ‘poor’ category (201 to 300), and On Wednesday, for instance, the AQI in Delhi was 211.

— The second, third and fourth stages will be activated three days ahead of the AQI reaching the ‘very poor’ category (301 to 400), ‘severe’ category (401 to 450) and ‘severe +’ category (above 450) respectively.

— For this, the CAQM is relying on air quality and meteorological forecasts by the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology (IITM) and the India Meteorological Department (IMD).


— Measures being imposed under the previous categories will continue even when the subsequent category is activated, that is, if measures under stage 2 are activated, measures under Stage-1 will continue to remain in place.

How is the GRAP different this year?

— The CAQM revised the Graded Response Action Plan earlier this year. The GRAP was first notified in January 2017 by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change. This was based on a plan that was submitted by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) in November 2016. According to the notification, the task of implementing the GRAP fell on the now dissolved Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority for the NCR. From 2021 onwards, the GRAP is being implemented by the CAQM.

— In the version of the GRAP that was notified in 2017, measures kicked in after pollution concentrations reached a certain level. This year, measures are pre-emptive and will kick in based on forecasts in an attempt to prevent the AQI from deteriorating further. The older version of the GRAP was enforced based only on the concentration of PM2.5 and PM10. This year, GRAP is being enforced based on the AQI, which takes other pollutants also into account, such as ozone, sulphur dioxide and oxides of nitrogen.


What are the measures that will be enforced this year?

— Some of the measures in the revised GRAP are also different this year. For the first time, it specifies that State governments in the NCR may impose restrictions on BS-III petrol and BS-IV diesel four wheelers under Stage-3, or when the AQI is likely to reach the ‘severe’ category.

— In the ‘severe +’ category, GRAP imposes a ban on plying of four-wheelers in Delhi and NCR districts bordering Delhi, except for BS-VI vehicles and those plying for emergency or essential services. Under this category, there will also be a ban on the movement of Delhi registered, diesel-operated medium and heavy goods vehicles in Delhi, with exceptions for those carrying essential commodities or providing essential services.

— Restrictions on some construction activities will also set in earlier in the revised GRAP. A ban on construction activities (except for those involving railways, projects of national security, hospitals, metro services, and linear public projects like highways, roads) will be imposed under the ‘severe’ category. In the previous plan, the construction ban was implemented only in the ‘severe +’ category.

— Construction activities on linear public projects like highways, roads, flyovers, pipelines and power transmission, will be banned under the ‘severe +’ category this year.

What are citizens required to do?


— The revised GRAP also has a set of measures for the public to follow – under the ‘poor’ category, this includes keeping vehicle engines tuned, ensuring PUC certificates are updated and switching off vehicle engines at red lights. Under the ‘very poor’ category, it is suggested that citizens use public transport and replace air filters in their automobiles.

— Under the ‘severe’ category, a recommendation is made to work from home if possible, and not use coal and wood for heating. Under the ‘severe +’ category, GRAP advises people with chronic diseases and children and the elderly to avoid outdoor activities.

Who will implement and enforce the GRAP?


— The CAQM has constituted a sub-committee for the operationalization of the GRAP. This body includes officials from the CAQM, member secretaries of pollution control boards of Uttar Pradesh, Delhi, Haryana, Rajasthan, the Central Pollution Control Board, a scientist from the IMD and one from the IITM, and Dr T K Joshi, Health Advisor, Centre for Occupational and Environmental Health, Maulana Azad Medical College. The sub-committee is required to meet frequently to issue orders to invoke the GRAP.

— The orders and directions of the CAQM will prevail in case of any conflict between directions issued by the State governments and the CAQM.


— Measures under the different categories of the plan are to be enforced by the pollution control boards of the NCR states and the concerned departments and agencies, including the traffic police, the Transport Department and road owning and construction agencies.

— Actions under Stages II, III and IV will be invoked three days in advance of the AQI reaching the projected level.

Stage 1 (AQI ‘Poor’ – 201 to 300)

(1) Stopping all construction and demolition activities with plot size of 500 square metres or more which have not been registered on dust mitigation monitoring portals

(2) mechanised sweeping, water sprinkling on roads

(3) enforcing guidelines on use of anti-smog guns at construction sites

(4) enforcing ban on open burning of waste and PUC (pollution under control norms) for vehicles

(5) DISCOMs to minimise power supply interruptions in NCR

(6) Encourage offices to start unified commute for employees to reduce traffic

Stage 2 (AQI ‘Very poor’ – 301 to 400)

(1) Not allowing coal/firewood in tandoors at hotels

(2) stopping use of diesel generator sets except for essential and emergency services (hospitals, railways, metro services, airports, water pumping stations, “projects of national importance”)

(3) enhance parking fees to discourage private transport

(4) augment CNG/ electric bus and metro services by procuring additional fleet and increasing the frequency of service

Stage 3 (AQI ‘Severe’ – 401 to 450)

(1) Ban on construction and demolition activities except railway, metro, hospitals, sanitation projects etc, linear public projects like highways, roads, flyovers

(2) closure of industries that have PNG supply and are not running on approved fuels. In industrial areas that don’t have PNG supply, industries not running on approved fuels will operate only for five days a week

(3) State governments in NCR may impose restrictions on BS III petrol and BS IV diesel four wheelers

Stage 4 (AQI ‘Severe +’ – more than 450)

(1) Stop entry of truck traffic into Delhi (except for essentials, CNG and electric trucks)

(2) Ban on plying of Delhi registered diesel medium and heavy goods vehicles in Delhi, except for essentials

(3) Ban on plying of 4-wheeler diesel vehicles in Delhi and districts of NCR bordering Delhi, except BS-VI vehicles and vehicles used for essential or emergency services

(4) State Governments may consider additional emergency measures like closure of schools, plying of vehicles on odd-even basis

(5) NCR State governments to decide on allowing public, municipal and private offices to work on 50% strength and the rest to work from home

(6) Ban C&D activities in linear public projects such as highways, roads, flyovers

Beyond the word

What is the Commission for Air Quality Management (CAQM)?

— The Commission for Air Quality Management was formed by an ordinance in October 2020, the “Commission for Air Quality Management (CAQM) in National Capital Region and Adjoining Areas Ordinance 2020”.

— It is chaired by a government official of the rank of Secretary or Chief Secretary.

— It will be a permanent body and will have over 20 members. The Commission will be a statutory authority. It will supersede bodies such as the central and state pollution control boards of Delhi, Punjab, Haryana, UP and Rajasthan.

— It will have the powers to issue directions to these state governments on issues pertaining to air pollution.

— The Commission has been set up for Air Quality Management in National Capital Region and Adjoining Areas for better co-ordination, research, identification and resolution of problems surrounding the air quality index and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto.

It has exclusive jurisdiction over the NCR, including areas in Haryana, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan, in matters of air pollution, and will be working along with CPCB and ISRO, apart from the respective state governments.

What are the key takeaways of World Air Quality Report 2021 released in 2022?

— Air pollution continued to spike to unhealthy levels in 2021, and New Delhi continues to be the world’s most polluted capital city for the fourth consecutive year, according to the World Air Quality Report, prepared by Swiss organisation IQAir. The index listed 35 Indian cities with the worst air quality tag for 2021 with Rajasthan’s Bhiwadi topping the list followed closely by Uttar Pradesh’s Ghaziabad.

— The report is based on PM2.5 air quality data from 6,475 cities in 117 countries, regions, and territories around the world. The data used to create this report was generated by tens of thousands of regulatory and low-cost air quality monitoring stations operated by governments, non-profit organizations, research institutions, educational facilities, companies, and citizen scientists around the world, noted the report.

— The report also revealed that not a single country managed to meet the WHO’s air quality standard in 2021, and smog even rebounded in some regions after a Covid-related dip in numbers. WHO’s guidelines of September 2021 warrant good air quality with PM2.5 concentration level between 0-5 g/m3. However, all these cities have ultra-fine particulate matter (PM)2.5 levels at least 10 times more than the approved limits.

— According to the report’s executive summary, air pollution is now considered to be the world’s largest environmental health threat, accounting for seven million deaths around the world every year. Air pollution causes and aggravates many diseases, ranging from asthma to cancer, lung illnesses and heart disease. The estimated daily economic cost of air pollution has been figured at $8 billion (USD), or 3 to 4 per cent of the gross world product.

— We are increasingly seeing a number of patients develop an acute allergy reaction to these air pollutants resulting in worsening of the existing respiratory illnesses such as asthma or allergies, said Dr Aditya Agrawal, pulmonologist, Bhatia Hospital Mumbai.  “A large number of patients who have been exposed to such pollutants present with breathlessness and/or cough actually turn out to have hypersensitivity pneumonitis which is potentially reversible if detected & treated early. However if the patient presents late it may even result in lung fibrosis,” he told

— In India, major sources of air pollution include vehicular emissions, power generation, industrial waste, biomass combustion for cooking, the construction sector, and episodic events like crop burning, noted the report. The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change concluded in its 2021 report stated that, in addition to slowing the speed of global warming, curbing the use of fossil fuels would help improve air quality and public health.

According to the report,

What can governments do?

*Decrease air pollution emissions
*Pass legislation to incentivize the use of clean air vehicles for personal and industrial use.
*Invest in renewable energy sources.
*Provide financial incentives, such as trade-in programs, to limit the use of internal combustion engines.
*Provide subsidies to encourage the use of battery and human-powered transportation methods.
*Expand public transportation and power with clean and renewable energy sources.
*Build additional infrastructure to encourage pedestrian and bicycle traffic.
*Strengthen and enforce emission limits for vehicles and industry.
*Adopt new air quality standards based on the 2021 World Health Organization

Air quality guidelines

*Implement forest management strategies to limit wildfires.
*Ban agricultural and biomass burning.
*Develop innovative civic strategies for improving air quality.

Expand the air quality monitoring framework

*Increase the number of public air quality monitoring stations.
*Provide incentives to non-governmental organizations and individuals who set up their own air quality monitoring stations

Limit your exposure to air pollution

*Reduce activities outdoors when air quality is unhealthy.
*Wear a KN95, N95, or FFP2 respirator mask when air quality is unhealthy.
*Prevent polluted outdoor air from entering homes and workspaces by closing doors and windows and setting A/C systems to recirculation mode.

*Use air filters and air purification systems where possible. “The best method to keep your indoor air pollution under control is to minimise clutter, use of carpets, control humidity and avoid aerosols,” said Dr Agrawal.
*Follow real-time and forecasted air quality reports to stay informed and safe.
*When possible, heat homes and cook with gas or electric rather than wood burning stoves.
*When outdoor air quality improves, even briefly, ventilate indoor spaces by opening windows and setting A/C systems back to fresh air intake.

Some recommendations to combat the menace

*You can use either artificial or natural purifiers at home. Plants like aloe vera, bamboo palm, golden pothos, peace lily, English ivy, etc. are natural purifiers which can be used as houseplants.
*Do breathing exercises to strengthen the lungs and help them combat the pollutants.
*It is proved that foods rich in vitamin E and C are great to reduce the effects of air pollution.
*Use air masks during the days of high pollution.
*Fluids help in detoxification of the body, so drink plenty of fluids.

How to lower air pollution footprint

*Choose cleaner, greener modes of transport such as walking, biking, and riding public transportation.
*Lower personal energy consumption.
*Reduce waste by recycling, upcycling, and purchasing less.
*Help to raise air pollution awareness in your community.

Point to ponder: Cleaning the NCR’s air will require a far greater sense of purpose and political will. Discuss.


Consider the following: (2011)

  1. Carbon dioxide
  2. Oxides of Nitrogen
  3. Oxides of Sulphur

Which of the above is/are the emission/emissions from coal combustion at thermal power plants?

(a) 1 only
(b) 2 and 3 only
(c) 1 and 3 only
(d) 1, 2 and 3

Answer to previous MCQ: One word a day – OPEC+ (a)

Post Read Q&A

Can you recall what you read?

  1. Who will enforce and implement the GRAP?
  2. What is CAQM?
  3. What are key takeaway of World Air Quality Report?
First published on: 07-10-2022 at 02:11:56 pm
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