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Delhi air quality very poor, SC-appointed panel calls for tough action

IANS | New Delhi |

Taking stock of the air pollution in Delhi and the neighbouring states, the Supreme Court appointed Environment Pollution (Prevention & Control) Authority (EPCA) on Friday asked authorities to immediately enforce the graded response action under "very poor" category for Delhi and "moderate poor" for NCR.

"Air quality for Delhi is very poor. Measures falling under this category of Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP) have to be taken," EPCA member and head of Centre for Science & Environment (CSE) Sunita Narain told IANS.

The EPCA, however, in its first meeting on GRAP refrained from strict enforcements, like banning the diesel generators and hiking the parking fee — the measures that fall under the "very poor" category. 

The temporary relaxation according to the EPCA members is to give enough time to the authorities and people to get prepared.

It was, however, decided to levy heavy fines on the violators, such as wrong parking.

In the meeting, it was also decided to completely revamp the brick kilns to reduce the air pollution by the next winters through essential low-cost methods.

"There are many brick kilns in Uttar Pradesh, Delhi and Haryana, which have not yet adopted to the low-polluting methods, such as zig-zag chimneys. From now on, the authorities concerned will work on that," an EPCA member told IANS.

EPCA head Bhure Lal in the meeting raised concern that the "smog situation" that gripped Delhi in November 2016 should not be repeated again. 

Observing that the air quality in Delhi and NCR is "already beyond poor", the EPCA has decided to enforce moderate poor category in the neighbouring states of Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Rajasthan, unless the task force formed by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) starts providing the forecast for air pollution.

The EPCA has been given the responsibility to implement the different categories of the GRAP. The enforcement has to be done through different government offices, including state and central pollution control boards, state secretaries, transport department and the civic bodies.

There are different categories under the GRAP, which applies when particulate matters — PM 10 and PM 2.5 (particles in air with diameter less than 10 and 2.5 mm) — are pushed beyond a limit. 

For very poor, the PM 2.5 ranges between 121-250 units or PM 10 level is between 351-430 units. For moderate poor, the PM 2.5 range between 61 and 90 or PM 10 between 101 and 250 units, and for poor category, PM 2.5 should range between 91 and 120 and PM 10 between 251-350.

Measures under "very poor" include banning the use of diesel generator sets, enhancing parking fee by 3-4 times, increasing bus and metro services by augmenting contract buses and increasing frequency of services, stopping use of coal or firewood in hotels and open eateries and others, including warning people from going out. 

For moderate poor category, measures include ban on garbage burning, enforcing all pollution control measures in brick kilns, industries and power plants and imposing heavy fine on violators.

It also talks about ensuring that fly ash is watered every alternate day during the summers, firecrackers are banned and the apex court's order to ban the entry of trucks registered after 2005 are enforced.

The set of actions during emergency situation includes implementation of the "odd-even" scheme and shutting of construction work if PM 2.5 crosses 300 units (micro grams per cubic metre) or PM 10 crosses the 500 mark.