EPCA Lifts Ban; Says There Is Visible Improvement In Delhi Air
Delhi air pollution has continued to make headlines. The Supreme Court- appointed body, the Environment Pollution Control Authority (EPCA) had imposed certain measures in order to minimise the menace caused due to pollution. According to the latest developments, the ban on diesel generators, brick kilns and the Badarpur station has been lifted but rules are in place to make sure that pollution is in check.
Here’s what you need to know:
In 2017, Delhi's killer smog hung thick over the city skies, also branching out to parts of Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Punjab. This forced authorities – the Supreme Court, the Centre and states – to spring on their feet and try and find out ways to address the menace.
Measures to tackle pollution last year
Among the various measures, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) banned construction and industrial activities and entry of trucks in the national capital till a certain date while Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Rajasthan and Haryana were asked to ensure that no crop residue is burnt.
Construction work was also put on hold temporarily but it was made sure that daily wage labourers were compensated. However, industry body, CREDAI expressed displeasure at this move. At a time when project delays cost real estate dearly, measures such as this added to the existing delay. According to the body, crop burning in the neighbouring states and strategic landscaping would put an end to this menace. Nevertheless, a temporary ban on construction looked inevitable.
Further, a ban was imposed on diesel trucks that were over 10 years old. No such vehicle from outside or within Delhi was permitted to transport any construction material.
Industrial activities that caused emissions were also put on hold and the odd-even rule for vehicles was brought back for five days starting November 14. Senior citizens and women were however exempted.
Moreover, it was made sure that there is regular cleaning of roads with vacuum clears so that the particulate matter does not rise and as an emergency measure, the Delhi Metro and the three municipal corporations hiked their parking rates.
Meanwhile, the Uttar Pradesh government undertook feasibility study of a personalised transit system.
Besides, diesel generator sets had been banned for 10 days, except at hospitals; the power supply to unauthorised colonies was taken care of by the Delhi government. Amin vacuum cleaning of roads and the sprinkling of water, coal-based power plant at Badarpur was closed for some time. There were also talks about engineered, artificial rains. Meanwhile, the NGT had directed Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Punjab and Delhi to coordinate and cooperate to improve the quality of air in the region.
In 2016, the Delhi government also recovered approximately Rs 2 crore as penalty from those who were violating dust pollution norms since November 2015, and the NGT directed that these penalties could be levied on individuals to the tune of Rs 5,000 per person or up to Rs 5 lakh on developers for violating dust pollution norms.
Between October 1, 2017 to February 25, 2018, there has been a "some visible improvement" in air quality in Delhi said the EPCA and therefore some modifications such as the follow ups have been made. At the same time, EPCA members maintain that there is “still a long way to go to achieve clean air. It is not safe to breathe yet.”
*The ban on Badarpur station has been lifted. The plant was shut for over four months but has now been asked to start temporary operations. However, the EPCA in a recent meeting with the Delhi Power Department and National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC) has decided to stop all operations of this 705 MV thermal power plant by July, 2018.
*When the diesel generators were banned last year, it drew in considerable criticism because the ban was only in Delhi and not in the National Capital Region (NCR) because the NCR still had to find suitable alternatives. There was also disquiet regarding generator sets that were installed following all environmental norms. Now the ban has been lifted.
*"About 1,400 brick kiln owners have submitted affidavits to EPCA undertaking commitment to shift to improved-zigzag kiln technology by April 2018. Roughly, 600 have converted. By July 1, 2018, only zigzag technology-compliant kilns will be allowed to operate," EPCA member and director general of the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), Sunita Narain said.
What has changed?
The EPCA had resorted to measures under the Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP) and therefore, the above-mentioned changes have been made until further upgrade. Under the GRAP, measures under 'very poor' and 'severe' categories are rolled out when levels of PM 2.5 are between 121-250 microgrammes per cubic metre (µg/m3) and above 250 µg/m3 respectively. PM10 levels have to be between 351-430 µg/m3 and above 430 µg/m3 respectively.
Most polluted localities
Despite overall “visible improvement”, Mandir Marg, Punjabi Bagh, R K Puram and Anand Vihar are areas where the change for the better is "not visible yet". Last year, Punjabi Bagh's air quality was recorded 'hazardous' because particulate matter (PM10) was hitting 836. The safe standard of PM10 stands at 100.
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