By Elton Gomes
As Delhi grapples with severe levels of air pollution, preventive measures could force a partial shutdown in the national capital between November 1 and November 10. The authorities could enforce a ban on construction activities and could order the shut down of at least one industrial area for the next 10 days.
“These measures are pre-emptive and go beyond what is stipulated in the Grap. These measures are being introduced keeping in mind the forecast and the need for emergency actions to combat pollution,” said Bhure Lal, chairman of the Environment Pollution Control Authority (EPCA), Hindustan Times reported. The EPCA is a committee appointed by the Supreme Court to check pollution.
The Air Quality Index (AQI), which had breached ‘severe’ levels of air pollution on Tuesday, showed a slight improvement and came down to ‘very poor’ levels. However, pollution levels are likely to shoot up due to unfavourable weather conditions.
What is being done to tackle the crisis
Measures that could be introduced between November 1 and November 10 include the shutting down of Mundka industrial area, a ban on construction and excavation (digging) activities, shutting down of industries that run on coal and biomass, ban on stone crushers, brick kilns, and hot mix plants.
A ban has already been imposed on diesel generators, and the Badarpur power plant has been closed since October 15, after the Graded Response Action Plan (Grap) was enforced.
The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) has also started Facebook and Twitter accounts where Delhiites can register complaints related to garbage burning, unpaved roads etc. Furthermore, the government has cancelled leaves of officials in the environment department.
“The Delhi government is fully prepared to take measures as per Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP), including the odd-even scheme are concerned. We will take them when needed,” Delhi Transport Minister Kailash Gahlot said, News18 reported. The odd-even scheme was rolled out initially in 2016. It was rolled out from January 1-15 and from April 15-30, and vehicles having odd and even numbers were allowed to ply on alternate days.
In addition, all construction activities involving excavation will be stopped. An order by the Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC) has directed the transport department and traffic police to intensify checking of polluting vehicles.
The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP)-led Delhi government on Tuesday announced that 44 joint teams of the CPCB and the Delhi government will be sent from Thursday to curb local sources of air pollution.
The teams have been mandated to take action against those found flouting norms, such as garbage and stubble burning, vehicular and industrial emission, use of power generators, construction and demolition waste.
Furthermore, the CPCB has directed the state pollution control bodies of Punjab, Haryana, and Delhi to begin criminal proceedings against agencies or individuals who fail to comply with directives to control air pollution.
Private vehicles could be banned
In an effort to control worsening air pollution in the national capital, a senior official on Tuesday said that private vehicles could be banned if there is an “emergency.”
“Let us hope the air pollution situation in Delhi doesn’t deteriorate but if it turns out to be an emergency, we will have to stop the use of private transport,” said Bhure Lal, chairperson of the EPCA, India Today reported. Lal said any decision in this regards will be taken after consultation with a committee.
Delhi Metro introduces 21 trains to combat pollution
The Delhi Metro Wednesday said it will be introducing 21 additional trains on its network that will provide 812 additional number of trips daily. The move came after the 17.8-km Shiv Vihar-Trilokpuri-Sanjay Lake section of the Pink Line was opened for passengers.
Officials from the Delhi Metro said the additional service “includes 14 trains with 730 trips on Shiv Vihar-Trilokpuri-Sanjay Lake section of Line-7. With these additional trips, the DMRC for the first time will be running 4,831 trips in a day, the highest ever so far,” a Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) spokesperson told PTI.
Air quality to dip further
Air pollution experts have predicted that the coming week could see high levels of particulate matter and toxic gases. Authorities have also stated that due to pollutants caused by biomass burning in the neighbouring regions of Delhi and unfavourable meteorological conditions, the air quality is likely to remain in the ‘very poor’ category on Thursday and Friday.
The System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting and Research (SAFAR) estimates that the coming 10 days could witness a deterioration of air quality in Delhi-NCR. “This is due to a western disturbance system in the north of India which is bringing moisture and a cyclonic system on the eastern side which is suppressing winds.
There is also the increased burning of paddy straw in Punjab and Haryana, evident from images released by NASA. The direction of the wind is now from the northwest. All this, combined with Delhi-NCR’s own pollution sources, could lead to a spike in pollution in the coming 10 days,” SAFAR said, the Indian Express reported.
Elton Gomes is a staff writer at Qrius
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