By Elton Gomes
New Delhi’s air quality remained poor for the second consecutive day today and it is likely to remain unchanged tomorrow, according to the government-run System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting and Research (SAFAR).
On Monday, at 9.30 am, the overall air quality index (AQI) was 208. An AQI between 0-50 is considered ‘good’, 51-100 ‘satisfactory’, 101-200 ‘moderate’, 201-300 ‘poor’, 301-400 ‘very poor’, and 401-500 ‘severe’.
PTI reported that authorities have predicted further deterioration of air quality in the coming days. The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) is taking several measures to fight pollution during the upcoming winter season. Delhi’s air quality is generally the worst in winter.
Additional plans to tackle pollution have also been taken. Delhi’s emergency action plan to fight ‘very poor’ and ‘severe’ air pollution level will be introduced from today.
The plan will initially impose a ban on diesel generator (DG) sets in Delhi. This comes at a time when the city has already encountered nine days of ‘poor’ air quality in the first two weeks of October. This is the second year in which the Graded Response Action Plan (Grap) is being employed.
What does Grap aim to do
“Measures listed under Grap to fight ‘very poor’ and ‘severe’ categories of air pollution will be rolled out from October 15. This will continue till March 2019,” Sunita Narain, member of the Supreme Court-appointed panel Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority (EPCA), which enforces Grap, told Hindustan Times.
Narain said, “With Grap being rolled out from Monday, there will be a ban on diesel generator (DG) sets in Delhi. DG sets will, however, be allowed to operate in NCR towns because it would be impractical to ban them outside the national capital, where there is still a problem of power supply.”
Other stringent measures will also be in effect. Delhi will see a ban on construction activities, on stone crushers, and hot mix plants. Additionally, the odd-even road rationing scheme will be implemented if the air quality dips further and reaches the ‘severe’ or ‘emergency’ categories.
Why has Delhi’s air quality dipped
The air quality of Delhi started deteriorating somewhere since the end of September. The air quality then stood at 197, which was just four notches below the ‘poor’ zone.
“On Saturday, the AQI in Delhi was recorded to be 219, which is ‘poor’ according to the National Air Quality Index. Pollution levels started increasing soon after rains stopped in the city. The AQI of Gurgaon and Greater Noida were 298 and 299 respectively,” a senior official of the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) told the Hindustan Times.
CPCB scientists had then blamed the incoming dust particles from west Asia for the rise in pollution. Experts said that the spike in pollution was due to the rise in natural and coarse dust particles. The levels of such particles rose to alarming levels on September 24.
Experts say Delhi better equipped to fight pollution now
Experts have said that the national capital is better equipped to tackle pollution since several steps will be taken. One of the most important measures of these being the installation of the early warning system that can predict air quality levels two days in advance.
“Polluting fuels such as coal, kerosene, furnace oil and pet coke have already been banned in Delhi. While on one hand teams comprising officials from CPCB have fanned out across Delhi and NCR towns, environment marshals deployed by the Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC) are also flagging violations such as open garbage burning and open construction sites. A section of trucks are also being diverted through the Eastern Peripheral Expressway,” a senior official from the Delhi government’s environment department told the Hindustan Times.
What can people do to remain safe
Delhi’s pollution varies depending on the neighbourhood and traffic patterns. However, in general, the coldest temperatures (i.e. in the middle of the night) create the highest levels of pollution. Residents are hence advised to not go out at night. This happens due to inversion, which traps pollutants from cars and factories under a blanket of warm air.
Residents are also advised to add more houseplants as they could help in making the indoor air cleaner. Many air pollution specialists say that though there’s no scientific evidence to prove this, outdoor trees could help when their leaves catch big particulate matter.
Residents can also purchase “bio-tulsi” tablets, made from dried basil “to counteract the effects of environmental pollution,” and drink ginger tea, which is believed to prevent colds.
How to reduce pollution
The Delhi government should begin a plantation drive to tackle pollution. The Delhi government must launch a campaign to plant trees in the city. Fresh air could be the only counter to excessive amounts of pollutants.
The Supreme Court ordered that from March 2018, all taxis should convert to CNG. Moreover, commercial vehicles, which were registered before 2005, will not gain entry to the national capital. This is important as switching to environment-friendly alternative fuel is always a better option.
Elton Gomes is a staff writer at Qrius.
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