Delhi Seeks Reduction In Air Pollution

Ahead of the Delhi assembly election, an umbrella body of residents’ welfare associations in the city launched a ‘citizens’ green manifesto’, urging political parties to prepare a roadmap to manage pollution

An umbrella body of residents’ welfare associations in Delhi, the United Residents’ Joint Action (URJA), has compiled a manifesto, titled ‘Citizens Green Manifesto for a Smart and Sustainable Delhi’, in consultation with a committee of experts on subjects like air pollution, transport and mobility, urban design, water supply and rejuvenation of water bodies, etc. The manifesto, which was launched on December 23, 2019, includes 10 key demands and provides solutions and a roadmap to achieve them. The demands include a 65% reduction in air pollution by 2025, clean energy for all by 2050 and public transport that caters to at least 80% of Delhi’s population.

The RWA body also sought a roadmap to decongest the city roads, zero water loss and 100% groundwater recharge by 2025, a statement said. “A lot of these targets and vision are already part of our current policy programmes but the challenge lies in real-time implementation of these targets,” Atul Goyal, president of URJA, said. “URJA expects the political parties and candidates running in the 2020 Delhi elections to align their manifestos with the 10 demands and match their actions to it,” the statement said.


Delhi pollution: SC relaxes ban, allows construction activities from 6 AM to 6 PM

With air quality in Delhi-NCR improving from the ‘severe’ level, the Supreme Court has partially relaxed its ban and allowed construction activities between 6 AM and 6 PM

December 10, 2019: The Supreme Court, on December 9, 2019, partially lifted its ban on construction activities in the Delhi-NCR, allowing them between 6 AM and 6 PM, after the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) said that the air quality index (AQI) level was not ‘severe’, at present. The apex court, which had, on November 4, 2019, stopped construction and demolition in Delhi-National Capital Region (NCR), perused the affidavit filed by the CPCB, which said however that no construction should be permitted during 6 PM to 6 AM.

“Presently, the situation not being severe, CPCB is of considered opinion that partial ban could be in place for construction activities, in as much as no construction should be permitted during night time (6 PM to 6 AM). The ban imposed could be partially lifted, by permitting activities during day time (6 AM to 6 PM), subject to the criteria stipulated in the GRAP (Graded Response Action Plan), wherein strict enforcement of rules for dust control in construction activities and closure of non-compliant sites is mandated in moderate to poor AQI category and further a ban on construction activities may be imposed by EPCA if ambient air quality levels persist in severe plus/ emergency category for 48 hours or more,” said the affidavit, which was perused by a bench of Justices Arun Mishra and Deepak Gupta. The court said it would hear the pollution matter on December 16, 2019.


Delhi breathes easy as rains, winds push AQI to ‘moderate’ levels

Delhiites breathed a sigh of relief on November 27, 2019, as the air quality in the national capital improved significantly due to rains and favourable wind speed

November 28, 2019: Delhi’s air quality index (AQI) improved to 133, in the ‘moderate’ category, at 7 pm on November 27, 2019. While most of the 37 air quality monitoring stations in Delhi recorded AQI in the ‘moderate’ category, air quality at a few places like Lodhi Road, Pusa, Aurobindo Marg and Burari Crossing improved to ‘satisfactory’ levels. The national capital and its suburbs recorded light rains on November 17, while a few areas in the region also received hail.

The centre-run System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting and Research (SAFAR) said, “Precipitation recorded in Delhi and north-western regions under the influence of western disturbance, has washed out suspended pollutants and led to rapid improvement in air quality.” The AQI is likely to remain in the ‘moderate’ category and could dip to the ‘poor’ category on November 29, 2019, it said.


Delhi Fire Services begins sprinkling water in city’s 13 pollution hotspots

November 25, 2019: The Delhi Fire Services on November 23, 2019 began sprinkling water in 13 pollution hotspots in the city to check the spread of pollutants like dust, a top official said.

The exercise was initiated following orders from the Delhi government, he said. The 13 pollution hotspots in Delhi, identified by the Central Pollution Control Board, are Rohini, Dwarka, Okhla Phase II, Punjabi Bagh, Anand Vihar, Vivek Vihar, Wazirpur, Jahangirpuri, RK Puram, Bawana, Narela, Mundka and Mayapuri.

A total of 20 fire tenders have been pressed into service and more will be deployed after an analysis of fire calls, Chief Fire Officer Atul Garg said.
Delhi has been grappling with hazardous levels of pollution since late October, with the air quality dipping to the “severe” category a few times.
The city saw a marginal improvement in the air quality on Saturday morning due to a slight increase in wind speed.

The overall air quality index (AQI) in the city was 340 at 9 am, a slight improvement from 360 on November 22, 2019. Most of the air quality monitoring stations in Delhi recorded AQI in the “very poor” category on November 23. An AQI between 201 and 300 is considered “poor”, 301-400 “very poor” and 401-500 “severe”.


Delhi pollution: Air quality likely to turn ‘severe’ again, owing to a dip in wind speed

November 19, 2019: The national capital recorded its best air quality in 12 days, as moderate winds continued to counter the effect of stubble burning on November 18, 2019, officials said. However, weather experts said, pollution levels are likely to enter the ‘severe’ zone again on November 21, due to a gradual dip in wind speed over the next two-three days. The overall air quality index in Delhi stood at 214 at 4 pm, a notch below Sunday’s AQI of 215. Neighbouring Ghaziabad (256), Greater Noida (218), Noida (227) recorded their air quality in the ‘poor’ category, while Gurugram’s AQI (138) remained in the ‘moderate’ category for the second consecutive day.

Kuldeep Srivastava, a senior scientist at the India Meteorological Department, said the maximum wind speed dropped from 30 kilometres per hour on Sunday (November 17) to 18 kilometers per hour on November 18. “The wind speed is likely to reduce to 10-12 kmph on Tuesday (November 19) and to 5-6 kmph on Wednesday (November 20, 2019,” he said. The Ministry of Earth Sciences’ air quality monitor SAFAR said the probability of the AQI touching the lower end of the ‘severe’ category on November 21 is high.


Air quality improves significantly

There was some respite for residents in the NCR, with air quality improving to the ‘poor’ and ‘moderate’ categories, in several regions, owing to strong winds

November 18, 2019: The air quality in Delhi improved significantly on November 17, 2019, due to strong winds but continued to remain in the ‘poor’ category. The satellite cities of the national capital also saw significant improvement in the air quality, with some having Air Quality Index (AQI) in the ‘moderate’ category. The air quality in Delhi-NCR is expected to remain in the ‘moderate’ and ‘poor’ categories for the next two days.

At 4 pm, the AQI of Delhi was recorded at 215, which falls in the ‘poor’ category. The AQI in Faridabad was 197 (moderate), Ghaziabad 218 (poor), Greater Noida 202 (poor), Noida 203 (poor) and Gurugram 136 (moderate). Mahesh Talawat, vice president of Sky Met weather, said strong winds due to a western disturbance, had helped disperse pollutants in Delhi-NCR and other parts of north India.


Schools remain shut, centre to examine feasibility of Japanese tech to battle pollution

The Delhi government has said that it may extend the odd-even road rationing scheme, while schools have been ordered to remain closed, with air pollution in the national capital nearing the ’emergency’ category

November 14, 2019: The noxious smog resulting from raging farm fires and unfavourable weather, pushed pollution in Delhi-NCR towards the ’emergency’ zone, on November 13, 2019, prompting authorities to order closure of schools till November 15 – a second time in two weeks. With the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) fearing that a similar situation will prevail over the next two days, chief minister Arvind Kejriwal said the odd-even road rationing scheme can be extended, if needed. The schools in the national capital will also be closed till November 15, 2019, the Delhi government said.

The Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority (EPCA) also extended the restrictions on dirty-fuel based industries in Delhi-NCR, hot mix plants and stone crushers till the morning of November 15, as the MeT department said strong winds are expected from Friday, which could bring down the air pollution levels to the ‘very poor’ category. The city’s overall air quality index read 456 at 4 pm, on November 13, up from 425 at 4 pm the earlier day. Stubble burning accounted for 40 of the pollution in the national capital but “blaming and cursing one another will not help”, union environment minister Prakash Javadekar said.  

SC asks centre to explore feasibility of hydrogen-based Japanese tech to fight air pollution

Perturbed by the depleting air quality, the Supreme Court also directed the centre to explore the feasibility of a hydrogen-based technology, as a permanent solution to the air pollution in the Delhi-NCR region and other parts of north India. A bench comprising chief justice of India (CJI) Ranjan Gogoi and CJI designate SA Bobde said since solicitor general Tushar Mehta had brought to the court’s notice a technology, which is the outcome of a research by a university in Japan, the centre shall explore the feasibility of using it in the National Capital Region (NCR) and other parts of north India.

The solicitor general introduced to the bench a researcher from a university in Japan, Vishwanath Joshi, who apprised it about the hydrogen-based technology that has the potential to eradicate air pollution. The court directed the centre to expedite the deliberations on the issue and come before the court with its findings on December 3, 2019.


Air quality likely to worsen from ‘severe’ to ’emergency’ category

The government’s air quality monitor, SAFAR, has warned that pollution levels in Delhi-NCR could enter the ‘severe plus’ or ’emergency’ category November 13, 2019: The noxious haze returned to Delhi and its suburbs on November 12, 2019, with raging stubble fires in neighbouring states, fall in the temperature and wind speed pushing the city’s air quality to the ‘severe’ zone. Meanwhile the System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting and Research (SAFAR) said pollution levels in Delhi-NCR could touch the ’emergency’ category on November 13. Madhavan Rajeevan, secretary, Ministry of Earth Sciences, tweeted, “Forecast (green) suggests air quality in severe+ category by Nov 14 (sic).”

According to the Central Pollution Control Bureau (CPCB), Delhi’s overall air quality index (AQI) read 425 at 4 pm and 437 at 9 pm on November 12. It was 360 at 4 pm on November 11. The levels of PM2.5 shot up to 337 micrograms per cubic metre, breaching its emergency threshold of 300, by 9 pm in Delhi-NCR. In the case of PM2.5, the safe level is 0-60 micrograms per cubic metre. The levels of PM10 increased to 484 micrograms per cubic metre, nearly five times the safe limit of 100 micrograms per cubic metre.

Wazirpur was the most-polluted area in the city with an AQI of 465, followed by Bawana (464), Rohini (454), Mundka (458) and Anand Vihar (458). Faridabad (413), Gurgaon (415), Ghaziabad (461), Greater Noida (444), and Noida (453) also choked on extremely polluted air. Experts said the spike in pollution levels can be attributed to a significant decline in wind speed. Incidents of stubble burning in Haryana and Punjab have increased and north-westerly winds have been bringing more farm fire plumes to the Delhi-NCR region, they said. “No sudden recovery is expected at least for the next two days and the AQI is likely to deteriorate further towards severe-plus category. The condition may slightly improve by November 15,” SAFAR said in a report.  

Delhi air pollution did not drop by 25% as stated by AAP government: Greenpeace

Greenpeace India has said that despite the Delhi government’s claim of a 25% reduction in air pollution, satellite data showed no statistically significant reduction in PM2.5 levels

November 8, 2019: The Delhi government’s claim of a 25% reduction in air pollution levels over the past few years is not true, Greenpeace India said, on November 7, 2019. According to a Greenpeace India analysis, “Historical ambient air quality monitoring and satellite data, coupled with increasing fossil fuel consumption in Delhi and adjoining states, contradict the government’s claims of a 25% reduction in pollution levels over past years.” Greenpeace India said that satellite data shows no statistically significant reduction in PM2.5 levels over the period from 2013 to 2018 and only shows slight reductions in the later part of 2018, compared to the past three years. Also, contrary to the claims of the AAP government that pollution has plummeted in the city, PM10 levels have augmented in 2018, as per the data at the manual air quality monitoring stations operated by pollution watchdog CPCB, i.e., Central Pollution Control Board, the NGO said.

In government advertisements, chief minister Arvind Kejriwal has been claiming that levels of PM 2.5 (or particulate matters equal to smaller than 2.5 microns in diameter) reduced to an average of 115 between 2016 and 2018, from an average of 154 between 2012 and 2014, which amounted to a 25% reduction. Reacting to the Greenpeace report, AAP spokesperson Saurabh Bhardwaj said they are not concerned about the analysis. “The centre, in its affidavit to the Supreme Court, has said it under oath that the pollution in Delhi has reduced and the pollution in October and November is due to stubble-burning.” Greenpeace India’s Avinash Chanchal emphasised that the trends in PM10, PM2.5 and NO2 levels, indicate that emissions from biomass burning (household and agricultural) were falling, while emissions from fossil fuel burning are increasing in Delhi, Haryana and Punjab region.  

Delhi pollution: Over 99,000 challans issued, Rs 14 crores levied as penalty

Environmental compensation of around Rs 14 crores has been imposed on polluters and 99,202 challans have been issued in Delhi, for violation of pollution norms, according to official data

November 6, 2019: Three-hundred teams constituted by the Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC), Delhi State Industrial and Infrastructure Development Corporation Ltd, Public Works Department, district magistrates and municipal corporations, to identify violations such as dumping of construction and demolition waste, dumping and burning of garbage and construction activities, have conducted 19,100 inspections and issued 99,202 challans. “An environmental compensation of Rs 13.99 crores has been imposed by various agencies. Under a special drive, 29,044 metric tonnes of construction and demolition waste has been lifted by municipal corporations and the Public Works Department, since October 16, 2019,” a government statement said.

The DPCC has penalised various government agencies such as the PWD, Central Public Works Department, National Buildings Construction Corporation Limited, and Delhi Development Authority, for violations of dust control norms at major construction sites. “Rs 57 lakhs has been deposited by the violators in the last 15 days,” the statement said.  

SC bans construction, demolition, burning of waste in Delhi-NCR

Observing that people could not be ‘left to die’ due to pollution, the Supreme Court has banned all construction and demolition activities and burning of waste in Delhi-NCR

November 5, 2019: Terming the severe air pollution in Delhi-NCR as ‘atrocious’, the Supreme Court banned all construction and demolition activities in the region, along with burning of garbage and waste, on November 4, 2019. The apex court, which observed that people could not be ‘left to die’ due to the ‘worse-than-emergency situation’, said those carrying out construction and demolition activities, despite its order, would be fined Rs one lakh. It added that a penalty of Rs 5,000 would be imposed, if anyone was found burning garbage and waste in the region.

A bench comprising justices Arun Mishra and Deepak Gupta said in case of any violation, the local administration and zonal officers would be held responsible. It said the prevailing situation in the area was a ‘blatant and grave violation of the right to life of an individual’ and scientific data suggested that the life span of those living in the region had reduced due to this. It asked the Delhi government and the civic bodies to chalk out a plan to ensure removal of the waste dumped at open spaces and come up with a scheme to deal with the issue. Regarding pollution due to dust accumulated on the roads, the bench said water be sprinkled on the stretches which were prone to dust. It directed that a traffic plan be prepared so that there was no burden on a particular road and the problem of pollution due to traffic congestion could be tackled. The bench asked the court-mandated Environment Pollution Control Authority (EPCA) to hold a meeting and take a decision on whether the industries, which contributed to the pollution levels of Delhi-NCR, could be shut down during this period. It also asked the EPCA to take a call regarding banning the entry of diesel-run trucks, except those carrying essential commodities, in Delhi.  

Pollution levels dip, further improvement expected with rains

Meanwhile, pollution levels in the national capital dipped on November 4, 2019, moving from ‘severe’ to ‘very poor’ category, with an increase in wind speed, which reduced the noxious haze that obscured Delhi’s skies for around a week. A day after pollution levels peaked to a three-year high (494), the city’s air quality index at 4 pm on November read 407. It dipped further and at 8.30 pm the AQI stood at 370, which falls in the ‘very poor’ category.

The relief came as the number of vehicles on Delhi roads came down significantly with the AAP government rolling out its car rationing scheme. With winds gusting up to 20 kilometres per hour dispersing pollutants faster, the visibility level improved to 2,000 metres. The India Meteorological Department (IMD) said cyclone Maha and a western disturbance will cause rainfall in parts of the northern plains, covering Rajasthan, Punjab, Haryana, western Uttar Pradesh and Delhi-NCR, on November 6-7, 2019, which will improve the situation further.


Odd-even rule for vehicles

With pollution in Delhi-NCR reaching the ‘severe plus’ category, the odd-even rationing scheme has kicked in from November 4, 2019

November 4, 2019: The odd-even road rationing scheme, an anti-pollution measure, kicked in from November 4, 2019  in the city, with Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal urging people to follow it for the sake of their family and kids. Under the scheme, apart from exempted categories, only those non-transport four-wheeled vehicles will ply on the roads which have registration numbers ending with an even digit. The overall Air Quality Index (AQI) of the city at 7:30 am stood at 439, which falls in the “severe” category. 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’. An AQI above 500 falls in the ‘severe plus’ category. “Namaste Delhi, odd-even is starting from today to reduce pollution. Please do follow it for yourself, your family, kids and your breath. Share cars. It will strengthen friendship, form relations, save petrol and pollution,” Kejriwal said in an early morning tweet in Hindi. Violations of the odd-even rule will invite a fine of Rs 4,000. Over 600 teams of Delhi Traffic Police and the transport and revenue departments have been deployed for a strict implementation of the scheme across the city. Under the scheme, which will be implemented from 8 am to 8 pm till November 15, non-transport four-wheeled vehicles with registration numbers ending with an odd digit (1, 3, 5, 7, 9) will not be allowed on the roads on November 4, 6, 8, 12 and 14. Similarly, vehicles with registration numbers ending with an even digit (0, 2, 4, 6, 8) will not be allowed on the roads on November 5, 7, 9, 11, 13 and 15. Two-wheelers and electric vehicles have been exempted from the restrictions, but not CNG-driven vehicles. Women-only vehicles with children aged up to 12 years and vehicles occupied by physically-disabled persons will also be exempted. Twenty-nine categories of vehicles, including those of President, prime minister, emergency and enforcement vehicles, have been exempted. However, the vehicles of the Delhi chief minister and ministers will not be exempted.  

EPCA declares public health emergency

With pollution in Delhi-NCR reaching the ‘severe plus’ category, the Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority has declared a public emergency

November 1 2019: A Supreme Court-mandated panel, on November 1, 2019, declared a public health emergency in the Delhi-NCR and banned construction activity till November 5, 2019. No construction can take place even in daytime. As pollution level in the region entered the ‘severe plus’ category, the Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority (EPCA) also banned the bursting of crackers during the winter season. The air quality in Delhi-NCR deteriorated further Thursday night (October 31) and is now at the severe plus level, EPCA chairperson Bhure Lal said, in a letter to the chief secretaries of Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Delhi. “We have to take this as a public health emergency, as air pollution will have adverse health impact on all, particularly our children,” he said in the letter.  

Delhi odd-even scheme: Private bus operators assure provision of adequate services

Private bus operators have assured the Delhi government that they will provide adequate number of buses during the odd-even scheme which will begin from November 4, 2019, an official has said

November 1, 2019: Private bus operators have promised to provide the number of buses required during the 12-day-long odd-even road rationing scheme from November 4, 2019 to November 15, 2019, a senior official of the Transport Department said, on October 31, 2019. The Delhi government is going to hire 2,000 private buses to boost the public transport system during the odd-even scheme. Currently, around 5,600 buses are run by DTC and DIMTS under the Cluster Scheme.

However, another official said that the registration of private buses for the odd-even scheme was going on at a ‘slow pace’, as operators were not coming forward to offer their buses for hiring. “The date of registration has been extended up to November 3, since just over 100 buses have been registered so far, against the target of 2000,” he said. Harish Sabharwal, general secretary of Delhi Contract Bus Association, said that the bus operators will provide the desired number of buses before the odd-even scheme rolls out.


Outdoor activities in schools suspended, construction ban extended

The Delhi government has directed all schools to suspend outdoor activities, while the EPCA has extended the ban on night-time construction till November 2, 2019, in a bid to deal with pollution in the NCR

October 31, 2019: The Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority has extended the ban on night-time construction in Delhi and its surrounding areas like Gurugram, Ghaziabad and Noida, till November 2, 2019. The window of the ban, which starts from 6 pm, has also been increased to 10 am from the earlier 6 am, the Supreme Court-mandated body said, on October 31, 2019. The ban on coal-based industries, barring power plants, in Faridabad, Gurugram, Ghaziabad, Noida, Greater Noida, Sonepat and Bahadurgarh, will also continue till November 2. In Delhi, industries that have not shifted to piped natural gas will remain closed during the period, the EPCA said.


Delhi government directs schools to suspend outdoor activities

Meanwhile, the Delhi government also directed all schools in the national capital to suspend outdoor activities, till severe pollution condition persists. Deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia also said the government may consider shutting the schools if the situation worsens. “Outdoor activities and exposure in polluted atmosphere could have long term detrimental effects on health of children. All heads of government as well as private schools are directed to ensure no outdoor activities are organised in schools till severe pollution condition persists,” the Directorate of Education (DoE) said in a letter to schools. Advising parents to send their children for classes wearing masks and shifting outdoor activities indoors, are among the steps taken by schools in Delhi-NCR to deal with pollution, as the air quality continued to remain in the ‘severe’ category.  

At 35%, stubble burning main cause for Delhi’s pollution: SAFAR

The share of stubble burning in Delhi’s pollution has risen to 35%, the season’s highest and the hazardous haze shrouding the city on October 30, could be ‘purely’ attributed to it, said the Ministry of Earth Sciences’ air quality monitor SAFAR. “After recovering from firecracker smoke, Delhi’s overall air quality has again plunged into ‘severe’ category. It can be purely attributed to stubble fire, the share of which increased to 35% today,” SAFAR said in a report. However, Haryana and Punjab have recorded around 1,500 fewer farm fires in the last 24 hours, it said.  


What accounts for Delhi’s deteriorating air quality? 

Fireworks on Diwali night played an ‘overwhelming’ role, in the rapid deterioration of air quality in Delhi-NCR, a CSE report has said

October 30, 2019: Experts from the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), who analysed real-time data for Delhi-NCR, have said that the bursting of crackers ‘ushered in the season’s first severe pollution peak’. The report said the air was much cleaner before Diwali in 2019 as compared to 2018, which ‘shows the overwhelming role of firecrackers, in building the severe peak on Diwali night’. “From a very clean afternoon, the change to severe pollution levels after 10 pm at (Diwali) night was drastic. There was a 10-fold jump in PM2.5 concentrations between 5pm and 1am, due to bursting of firecrackers. The peak level during 1am to 3am, was quite similar to the peak levels observed in 2018,” the report said.

The air quality data indicates that the concentrated bursting of crackers after 10pm at night, had spiralled the pollution curve to nearly the same severe level that was observed during the previous Diwali night, it said. “This happened despite the 2019 Diwali being warmer and windier than in 2018. This temporarily undid the comparatively better air quality gains of this season due to favourable weather, on-going pollution control action and preventive emergency measures,” it said. Despite a Supreme Court-enforced two-hour window (from 8pm to 10 pm), revellers burst crackers until late on Diwali night.  

Delhi pollution: As air quality nears ‘severe’ category, EPCA bans construction at night

With air quality in the Delhi-NCR region inching towards the ‘severe’ category, the EPCA has banned construction activities in the national capital and satellite towns from October 26 to 30, 2019

October 25, 2019: With air quality in the Delhi-NCR region turning ‘very poor’ ahead of Diwali, the Supreme Court-mandated Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority (EPCA) banned construction activities in the national capital and its satellite towns between 6 pm and 6 am, from October 26 to 30, 2019. In a letter to the chief secretaries of Delhi, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh, EPCA chairman Bhure Lal also issued directions to close down coal-based industries, barring power plants, in satellite towns of Faridabad, Gurugram, Ghaziabad, Noida, Greater Noida, Sonepat and Bahadurgarh, during the period.

Most of the places in the national capital recorded the AQI in the ‘very poor’ category, while the situation inched towards ‘severe’ in some areas. The ban follows a slew of recommendations from a 10-member anti-pollution task force led by Central Pollution Control Board’s (CPCB’s) member secretary, Prashant Gargava. “Hot mix plants, stone crushers and construction activities, such as earthwork, which have potential to generate dust, to be banned between 6 pm and 6 am from October 26 to 30 in Delhi and satellite towns, namely Gurugram, Faridabad, Noida, Greater Noida, Ghaziabad, Sonepat and Bahadurgarh,” Lal said in the letter.

He also asked all implementing agencies to take strict action to check stubble burning in Punjab and Haryana and ensure enforcement of the Supreme Court’s directions regarding firecrackers and impound ‘visibly’ polluting vehicles. The EPCA also ordered the Delhi Traffic Police and adjacent NCR towns to deploy additional manpower to ensure smooth movement of vehicles in all areas, especially the identified high-traffic corridors in the national capital. The air quality situation during the next few days, due to festivals, meteorology and stubble burning, is expected to be challenging, the EPCA chairman said.  

Delhi pollution: Ban on diesel gen-sets kicks-in under GRAP, as air quality becomes ‘very poor’

With air quality in the national capital slipping to ‘very poor’, a ban on diesel generator sets, except for those used in essential and emergency services, has kicked-in under the Graded Response Action Plan

October 16, 2019: The national capital banned generator sets, barring those being used in essential and emergency services, on October 15, 2019, as the air quality in several places in the city and adjoining areas slipped to the ‘very poor’ level. The overall Air Quality Index (AQI) in Dwarka Sector 8, Delhi Technological University, Mundka, Rohini, Anand Vihar, and Bawana was 359, 343, 342, 319, 313, and 307, respectively. The overall AQI stood at 275 at 6.30 pm. The air quality in neighbouring Ghaziabad (316), Greater Noida (308) and Loni Dehat (307) also dipped to the ‘very poor’ level. An AQI between 0 and 50 is considered ‘good’, 51 and 100 ‘satisfactory’, 101 and 200 ‘moderate’, 201 and 300 ‘poor’, 301 and 400 ‘very poor’, and 401 and 500 ‘severe’.

The ban on generators is a part of the Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP), a set of stricter anti-pollution measures to be taken according to the severity of pollution that came into force, on October 15, 2019. This is the first time that the ban on gen-sets has been extended to the NCR cities of Gurugram, Ghaziabad, Noida, Greater Noida, Faridabad, Sonepat, Panipat and Bahadurgarh. The centre-run System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting And Research (SAFAR), in a report, said, “Delhi’s overall air quality is in the higher end of the ‘poor’ category. It touched the ‘very poor’ category for a brief period on Monday night.” Meanwhile, the Delhi government wrote a letter to union earth sciences minister, urging him to share SAFAR’s technical expertise, so that the city’s administration could take immediate corrective measures to curb air pollution.


Delhi government mulls staggering of working hours in offices, to tackle air pollution

The Delhi government is planning to stagger office hours in the city, as one of the measures to reduce congestion and air pollution

September 26, 2019: The Delhi government is planning to stagger office hours in the city, to deal with air pollution, chief minister Arvind Kejriwal tweeted, after a meeting with lieutenant governor Anil Baijal. “Met Hon’ble @LtGovDelhi Shri Anil Baijal ji and briefed him about the steps planned by Delhi govt to reduce air pollution, including Odd Even (car rationing scheme). He assured us of his support and suggested that opening/closing hours of offices be staggered. The Govt will definitely implement this,” Kejriwal tweeted.

A government official said that modalities of the plan will be worked out soon, adding that the measure may be a temporary arrangement, to reduce pollution in winters. As per rough estimate, there are over one lakh employees of Delhi government in the city. Timing of opening most government offices is between 8.30 am and 9.30 am. According to the official, the opening and closing hours of offices will vary but it should be eight working hours in a day.

After the meeting, Baijal said that he and the chief minister discussed measures to reduce air pollution and congestion in Delhi. “Met Hon’ble CM Delhi @ArvindKejriwal. Discussed measures to reduce air pollution and congestion in Delhi. Requested to explore amongst other measures, option of staggered opening/closing hours of offices & other establishments to reduce congestion and resultant air pollution,” Baijal tweeted.  

Indoor air pollution in Delhi 

Staying indoors to avoid toxic outdoor air in the national capital may not serve the purpose anymore, as pollutants have now entered homes, according to a study

September 25, 2019: A new study has revealed that the air inside homes in Delhi has become unsafe, with high levels of pollutants found in it, despite keeping doors shut. “Houses in the city have very polluted air, infested with large concentrations of PM2.5, carbon dioxide and harmful gases, with long-term health implications,” said a study conducted by BreatheEasy Consultants, with real-time monitoring of air quality inside more than 400 homes in Delhi-NCR, spread across 200 large and small residential colonies. The study was conducted between April 2018 and March 2019.

The study claimed that it assessed air quality inside various types of homes, with respect to three air-borne pollutants – particulate matter 2.5, carbon dioxide (CO2), and total volatile organic compounds (TVOCs) – that are emitted as gases from certain solids and liquids inside homes. “The level of carbon dioxide inside many homes was found to be as high as 3,900 parts per million (ppm) against the recommended safe limit of 750 ppm and TVOC concentration exceeded 1,000 µg/m3 (micrograms per cubic meter air) in some cases, in contrast to the safe limit of 200 µg/m3,” the study said.

It said that even in situations where air purifiers were used, PM2.5 levels were above the safe limit as defined by the standard and CO2 and TVOC levels were many times higher than permissible limits. Barun Aggarwal, CEO, BreatheEasy Consultants, said, “Most people can recognise the health concerns associated with outdoor air pollution but they rarely consider how poor their indoor air quality is, even though an average human spends nearly 80-90 per cent of their time indoors. In our study, carbon dioxide and various harmful gases in the form of volatile organic compounds, were found to be the main pollutants inside homes in Delhi-NCR, much exceeding their safe limits. This can have serious health repercussions for inhabitants, especially children and elderly,” he said. According to the study, after eight hours, the CO2 concentration of a typical air-conditioned, closed-door bedroom, used by two people, peaked at about 3,000 ppm. “This is almost five times the permissible limit and people breathe this air all night,” it said.  

Odd-even scheme returns to Delhi from November 4, 2019

Environmental experts supported the Delhi government’s odd-even scheme as an ’emergency’ measure to bring down air pollution levels in winters, an official statement said

September 13, 2019: Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal on September 13, said the odd-even road rationing scheme will be implemented in Delhi from November 4 to 15. Kejriwal said the move was aimed at combating high levels of air pollution in winters when crop burning takes place in neighbouring states. The chief minister announced his seven-point action plan to tackle pollution due to crop burning which includes distribution of masks, mechanised sweeping of roads, tree plantation, and special plans for 12 pollution hot spots in the city. Under the scheme, odd and even-numbered vehicles ply on alternate days. Earlier, environmental experts met Arvind Kejriwal on September 12, and supported the Delhi government’s odd-even scheme as an “emergency” measure to bring down air pollution levels in winters, an official statement said. They discussed with the chief minister an action plan to combat winter air pollution in the national capital, it said.

“The experts, Dr Ken Lee, executive director of EPIC (Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago) India, and O P Agarwal, CEO, WRI (World Resources Institute) India, say Delhi’s odd-even policy had impact and recommended pollution masks in winter months,” the government statement said.

They also recommended long term measures such as electric vehicle policy, bus aggregator policy and reforms of pollution under control centres to combat air pollution in the city, it said. Dr Lee presented research and data on the impact of the first odd-even implementation by the Delhi Government in January 2016, the statement said. “The January 2016 odd-even pilot reduced particulate air pollution concentrations by 14-16 per cent,” Lee claimed. However, due to the possibility of compliance issues over the long-run, it is perhaps best suited as an emergency measure during the winter when vehicle emissions are especially problematic, he said. Agarwal suggested that the Delhi government should look for short term measures to restrict indiscriminate use of private automobiles in the city, such as odd-even scheme, besides focusing on augmentation of public transport, the statement said. The experts said use of pollution masks could be beneficial as an effective risk mitigation measure, it added. “In a study done by EPIC India across 3,500 slum residents of Delhi in winter of 2018, it was found that the take-up of masks was the highest when it was distributed for free,” the statement said. “Certain types of pollution masks (N90 or N95 masks, for example) can be effective in reducing individual exposure to outdoor air pollution,” it said. The WRI India also recommended government support for wider dissemination of pollution masks in the winter months, especially for vulnerable groups such as school children, it added.  

Govt seeks suggestions from Delhi citizens 

The Delhi government has sought the suggestions from people, for steps to reduce pollution in the city during winters when stubble burning takes place in the neighbouring states like Punjab and Haryana. Addressing a press conference, chief minister Arvind Kejriwal said people can send their suggestions at till September 12, 2019.

During the peak season from around October 25 to November 20, a large number of stubble-burning incidents are reported in the neighbouring states, which adds to the pollution level in the national capital, he said. “We want to ask the people of Delhi what steps can be taken during these 20-25 days to protect children and the elderly among others, from the ill-effects of pollution caused by stubble burning,” Kejriwal said. The chief minister claimed that in the last three years, there has been 25 per cent reduction in the overall pollution level because of a slew of measures taken by the AAP government and others, including Supreme Court, Union government, Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority (EPCA) and civic bodies. He said at present, 40 air-quality monitoring systems are operating in Delhi to get real-time data and 4,000 buses will soon be procured which will also result in reduction in pollution levels. Introduction of environment compensation charge, construction of eastern and western peripheral expressways, dust-control measures during construction work, massive tree plantation drive, closure of Badarpur and Rajghat power plants, Graded Response Action Plan are among the measures which have contributed to the reduction of pollution levels in Delhi, the chief minister said.  

New forecasting system to alert Delhiites about air pollution

Scientists have developed a new forecasting system that they say can provide the residents of Delhi and other heavily polluted areas of northern India, critical information for reducing their exposure to potentially unhealthy air

May 2, 2019: A new forecasting system, developed by the US-based National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), in collaboration with the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology (IITM) in Pune, provides 72-hour forecasts of fine particulate matter, known as PM2.5. “By developing this forecasting system, we are working to provide timely and accurate information to the public, about forthcoming episodes of poor air quality,” said NCAR’s Rajesh Kumar, the lead scientist on the project. “It’s critical to inform people, so they can plan in advance to reduce their exposure to air pollutants that can affect their health,” Kumar said in a statement.

PM2.5 are tiny airborne particles, 2.5 microns or less in diameter and are a major concern, because they are small enough to penetrate deep into the lungs or even the bloodstream, potentially causing significant respiratory and cardiac problems, the NCAR said in a statement. Air pollution can become so extreme under typical wintertime meteorological conditions that officials in Delhi have closed schools and restricted traffic on highly polluted days, they said. The new system uses measurements of pollutants, computer modelling and statistical techniques. It updates the forecast every 24 hours, researchers said. Preliminary results indicate that it is accurately predicting day-to-day variability in PM2.5, giving officials and residents advance warning of unusually poor air quality. See also: Government issues show-cause notice to Okhla waste-to-energy plant, for environment rule violations It does not always capture the precise levels of the pollutant but Kumar believes they can improve the forecasting system. The technology, which scientists will refine during a two-year research project in India, may eventually be adapted to provide air quality forecasts in other polluted areas in developing countries, as well as in the US. Delhi ranks among the world’s most polluted cities, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). It suffers from particularly high levels of PM2.5, a major threat to human health and economic activity throughout much of India and many parts of the developing world. Fine particulates are emitted from numerous sources, including agricultural fires, motor vehicles, and smokestacks. On days when atmospheric concentrations of PM2.5 in Delhi soar to many times the level that is considered unhealthy, prolonged exposure to the toxic haze is equivalent to smoking two packs of cigarettes a day, researchers said. A recent study in Lancet found that fine particulates and other pollutants may have caused more than one million deaths in India, in 2017. Officials have turned to air quality forecasts in the past that drew on computer modelling of basic atmospheric conditions, researchers said. However, the forecasts were unreliable, because they did not include detailed atmospheric measurements or accurate inventories of emissions, nor did they correctly capture some of the atmospheric processes that produce particulates, they said. The new system attempts to address these limitations, by incorporating satellite measurements of particles in the atmosphere and near-real time emissions from major fires associated with crop-residue burning upwind of Delhi, according to the researchers. It also draws on inventories of emissions from transportation, industry and other human activities, they said. This information is fed into an advanced NCAR-based atmospheric chemistry model known as WRF-Chem (the chemistry component of the Weather Research and Forecasting model). NCAR scientists are developing a specialised statistical system, to combine the observations and WRF-Chem output, further improving the accuracy of PM2.5 predictions and enabling scientists to reliably quantify the uncertainties in the forecast.  

NGT raps Delhi Pollution Control Committee over air quality

The NGT has pulled up the Delhi Pollution Control Committee over the issue of air pollution, saying that the authority was ‘repeatedly failing to perform its duties’

April 9, 2019: The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has rapped the Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC) over its failure to control air pollution in the national capital, saying it was avoiding its duties. A bench, headed by NGT chairperson justice Adarsh Kumar Goel, directed the Delhi chief secretary to look into the matter and take remedial measures, about proper manning and effective functioning of the DPCC. “The tribunal may have to consider whether a statutory authority, which is repeatedly failing to perform its duties, should continue in position as one of the reasons which is contributing to unabated pollution in Delhi resulting in large scale deaths and diseases, is the failure of statutory authorities to perform their duties. In absence of responsiveness of the statutory authorities who have to carry out the orders of this tribunal, mere passing of paper orders will not advance the purpose for which this tribunal has been constituted under the law,” the bench said.

It said that no officer or authority can be allowed to defeat the law in the manner it is being done on a regular basis by the DPCC. The tribunal said that in such a situation, option may also have to be explored for action under Section 18(2) of the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974, whereby the central government may handover the functions of the defiant DPCC to the Central Pollution Control Board. “Before further action, we direct the chief secretary, Delhi, to look into the matter and take remedial measures about proper manning and effective functioning of the DPCC. The DPCC may file a proper affidavit of the action taken in the matter, before the next date,” the bench said.

See also: India and Germany to collaborate, for implementation of the National Clean Air Programme The Tribunal was hearing a plea filed by city resident Rajesh Kumar, alleging air pollution by a brake lining factory near Chajju Gate, Babarpur. The NGT had earlier directed the DPCC to furnish a factual and action taken report. “A report has been received vide e-mail dated March 29, 2019 to the effect that the East Delhi Municipal Corporation has sealed the premises and the SHO will be keeping strict vigil. The report does not show any steps for prosecution or recovery of compensation, for damage to the environment on ‘polluter pays principle’,” the Tribunal noted.  

NGT slaps Rs 25-crore fine on Delhi government

The NGT has slapped a fine of Rs 25 crores on the Delhi government for its failure to curb pollution, saying that the authorities had ‘hardly done anything concrete, except furnishing excuses’

December 4, 2018: The National Green Tribunal (NGT), on December 3, 2018, asked the Delhi government to deposit Rs 25 crores with the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), for their failure to curb the problem of pollution in the city. A bench headed by NGT chairperson justice Adarsh Kumar Goel, also asked the AAP government to furnish a performance guarantee of Rs 25 crores with the apex pollution monitoring body, to ensure that there is no further lapse in this regard.

It said despite its clear directions, there is hardly any action for compliance of orders of the tribunal and pollution continues unabated, in blatant violation of law and under the nose of the authorities ‘who have hardly done anything concrete, except furnishing excuses and helplessness’. The green panel said that even after more than four-and-a-half years, the complaint of the aggrieved parties is that the pollution caused by the unregulated handling of plastic continues to remain unabated.

See also: Prosecute government officials for not acting on air pollution complaints: SC to pollution board

The tribunal was hearing pleas filed by Mundka village resident Satish Kumar and Tikri-Kalan native Mahavir Singh, alleging pollution caused by burning of plastic, leather, rubber, motor engine oil and other waste materials and continuous operation of illegal industrial units dealing with such articles, on agricultural lands in Mundka and Neelwal villages.

The tribunal had earlier directed the Delhi chief secretary to coordinate with the concerned municipal authorities, police authorities and other officers responsible, for compliance of orders of this tribunal already passed, to ensure compliance at the ground-level, forthwith. It had asked the chief secretary to hold a joint meeting with the persons considered responsible for compliance and till the orders remain un-complied, continue to hold such meetings at least once a month. “It will be open to the chief secretary to seek feedback from the concerned inhabitants, about the ground situation,” the NGT had said.  

Delhi pollution: EPCA recommends odd-even scheme or ban on non-CNG private vehicles

The EPCA has recommended to the pollution board that it should implement either the odd-even scheme or impose a complete ban on non-CNG private vehicles, if the air pollution in Delhi worsens again

November 15, 2018: Chairman of the Supreme Court-appointed Environment Pollution Control Authority (EPCA) Bhure Lal, on November 14, 2018, recommended to the pollution watchdog CPCB that it should implement, either the odd-even scheme or impose a complete ban on non-CNG private vehicles, if the air pollution level in Delhi increases again.

Reacting to the recommendation by the chairman of the EPCA, the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) said the additional steps, including the complete ban on non-CNG private vehicles, should be ‘deliberated’ by the EPCA, which is a larger body. Lal’s recommendation and CPCB’s reaction came on a day when Delhi’s air quality ‘improved significantly’ since Diwali, as overnight rains washed away larger pollutants and stubble burning in neighbouring states declined. The air quality, however, was ‘poor’, with an AQI of 293. The recommendation also came two days after Lal had written to chief secretaries of Delhi and neighbouring states, asking them to consider a ban on private vehicles, barring those running on CNG.

In a letter to CPCB member secretary Prashant Gargava, Lal said all cities, which have similar emergency plans – like Paris or Beijing – include restrictions on private vehicles, which is done by either number plate or by fuel type or its age. He said vehicles contribute as much as 40 per cent of the total emission load in Delhi and roughly 30 per cent in the region. “In this situation, the only option is to look at either a complete ban on all private vehicles (without the identification of petrol or diesel), other than CNG and/or restriction on plying by number plate (odd-even),” he said. “However, please note that the odd-even scheme, as practiced in other cities for similar pollution abatement, is done for extended hours and includes all private vehicles,” he added. See also: Delhi’s air quality turns ‘severe’, EPCA directs construction only during daytime

In 2016, the odd-even scheme was enforced twice – January 1-15 and April 15-30 – in Delhi, when vehicles having odd and even numbers were allowed to ply on alternate days, as the air quality deteriorated. The odd-even scheme is a part of the Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP), emergency measures implemented in phases to combat air pollution. It came into effect from October 15, 2018.

Lal said he understands that any restriction on plying of private vehicles, without adequate public transport, would create ‘huge inconvenience’ to people. “Even after removing trucks and other diesel commercial vehicles, which are the highest segment of this pollution load, the remaining vehicles add up to substantial load, particularly private diesel vehicles, which contribute substantially to both, NOx (nitrogen oxides) and PM (particulate matter) emission,” the EPCA chairperson said. He requested the CPCB-led taskforce to deliberate on this matter and give its recommendations at the earliest.

Noting that it is clear that the region’s own sources of pollution are greatly responsible for the poor air quality, Lal said the accumulation of pollutants post-Diwali and then, the addition of pollutants on a daily basis, combined with adverse weather (onset of cold and no wind for dispersion) have kept the region in very poor, severe and even severe-plus categories.

“This is extremely hazardous for our health and unacceptable. We also know that the role of crop burning has been to exacerbate this situation,” he said. “It is for this reason that the EPCA, for the past many years, has stressed on the need for augmentation of public transport, not just in Delhi but in the NCR. The Comprehensive Action Plan, which is now notified, but still nowhere close to implementation, includes time-bound action on public transport,” Lal said. This is not the first time that Lal has recommended completely banning non-CNG private vehicles in the national capital. On October 31, 2018, he had proposed banning all private vehicles but this time he went ahead and proposed a ban on all non-CNG private and commercial vehicles.  


How to reduce air pollution in Delhi?

Delhi’s air pollution is because of several factors such as crop burning in adjacent states, vehicular emissions, cultural practices (such as use of crackers during Diwali) etc. Authorities have been trying to lessen the impact of severe pollution through monitoring, implementing the odd-even rule for vehicles, encouraging use of public transport and electric vehicles, staggering school and office timings etc. At individual level, people can work towards reducing pollution by using air purifiers, regular cleaning of the house, limited use of vehicles etc.

How does odd-even rule work in Delhi?

Non-transport four-wheeled vehicles with registration numbers ending with an odd digit (1, 3, 5, 7, 9) will not be allowed on the roads on ‘even’ days such as 2, 4, 6, 8, 12 and 14 and on. Similarly, vehicles with registration numbers ending with an even digit (0, 2, 4, 6, 8) will not be allowed on the roads on ‘odd’ days such as 5, 7, 9, 11, 13 and 15. Two-wheelers and electric vehicles had been exempted from the restrictions, but not CNG-driven vehicles. Women-only vehicles with children aged up to 12 years and vehicles occupied by physically-disabled persons was also exempted. Twenty-nine categories of vehicles, including those of President, prime minister, emergency and enforcement vehicles, have been exempted. This was a temporary measure during peak pollution in Delhi.

Is there public health emergency in Delhi?

The Supreme Court-mandated panel, on November 1, 2019, declared a public health emergency in the Delhi-NCR and banned construction activity for a stipulated period. No construction was allowed during this period. As pollution level in the region entered the ‘severe plus’ category, the Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority (EPCA) also banned the bursting of crackers during the winter season. This was a temporary measure during peak pollution season in Delhi.


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