Delhi’s air quality remains poor, environment minister directs officials to be in ‘war mode’

Delhi’s air quality continued to be in the ‘poor’ category, on October 23, 2018, with the environment minister directing all officers and agencies to be in ‘war mode’ to combat air pollution

With Delhi continuing to witness ‘poor’ air quality, various agencies have announced measures to combat the same. As parts of the Bhalswa landfill site continued to smoulder, the North Delhi Municipal Corporation announced a slew of measures that it will take, for remediation of the over 60-metre-high dump. Meanwhile, the Supreme Court, on October 23, 2018, ruled that people in the country can burst firecrackers from 8 PM to 10 PM only, on Diwali and other festivals, permitting the sale and manufacture of low emission, ‘green’ firecrackers countrywide. Environment and health experts welcomed the order, with some describing it as a ‘spectacular’ decision, while others saying it was time society celebrated festive occasions ‘more responsibly’.

The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) recorded the city’s overall AQI (air quality index) at 254 in the evening. 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 air quality in the national capital had shown signs of improvement, on October 22, 2018, as it moved from the ‘very poor’ to ‘poor’ category but experts said it could deteriorate in the coming days, due to toxic air coming out of a fire at the Bhalswa landfill site.

The fire had been raging at the Bhalswa landfill site since October 20, 2018 raising concerns about the air quality in the National Capital Region (NCR) further deteriorating. The fire was extinguished in the evening of October 22. A senior DFS official, however, on October 23, 2018 said that parts of the dump site continued to smoulder. In Delhi, the centre-run System of Air Quality Forecasting and Research (SAFAR) also reported an AQI in the ‘poor’ category. Faridabad, Greater Noida and Ghaziabad recorded AQI in the ‘poor’ category, while Gurugram’s AQI stood in ‘very poor’ category.

Meanwhile, environment minister Imran Hussain held a multi-stakeholder review meet, for effectively checking air pollution. “The environment minister directed all officers and agencies to be in war mode, to combat air pollution,” the Environment Department said, in a statement. He reviewed the action plans of various stakeholders, for implementing the Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP) mandated by the Supreme Court, for combatting and mitigating air pollution in Delhi. “The meeting was attended by the chief secretary, commissioners of the north, south and east corporations, chairman of the New Delhi Municipal Council, secretary (environment), secretary (transport and power), special secretary (industries), chief engineer (PWD), along with other senior officers,” it said in a statement.

See also: Emergency plan to tackle pollution comes into force in Delhi-NCR

Meanwhile, north Delhi mayor Adesh Gupta and municipal commissioner Madhup Vyas, visited the Bhalswa landfill site on October 23, with the civic body announcing a slew of measures that it will take for its remediation, even as parts of the over 60 meter-high garbage dump continued to smoulder, officials said. “Three immediate major decisions were taken, which included reinforcement of the barbed wire, deployment of a police team to restrict entry of rag-pickers and night vigil by the staff stationed at the site,” a senior NDMC official in the Engineering Department said. The mayor also decided that a ‘global tender’ would soon be invited, for remediation of the Bhalswa landfill site, the official said. “The Bhalswa landfill site is spread over 70 acres, rising 62 metres. About 2,000 metric tonnes of garbage is being dumped on it on a daily basis and currently, it has 80 lakh metric tonnes of garbage,” the mayor was quoted as saying in an NDMC statement.

On October 21, 2018, the AQI had oscillated between ‘poor’ and ‘very poor’ categories and on October 22, it had improved to ‘poor’ while on October 20, a haze had engulfed the national capital and the worst air quality of this season was recorded at 324. Anumita Roy Chowdhury of the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), on October 22, said that as winter approaches, toxic air emanating out of such landfill fires is likely to affect the air quality. “If the wind speed is lower and the temperature dips, the polluted air coming out of landfill fires will get trapped, which would severely affect the air quality,” she said.

The Supreme Court-appointed Environment Protection Control Authority (EPCA) had, last week, held a meeting with officials of Punjab and Haryana governments and the Delhi government, to discuss the pollution situation in the national capital. In the meeting, the three municipal corporations and the New Delhi Municipal Council, were directed to ensure that keeping of uncovered building material was not permitted on their respective roads. “They were also directed to ensure that the conditions laid down in sanctioned building plan for construction of buildings, were strictly followed by owners and builders, for effective control of dust,” the statement said.

It was also decided that two joint teams of officials from the revenue department, municipal corporations and civil defence volunteers, are deputed in each district for monitoring construction activity and taking preventive and punitive action, against the violators of dust control norms, it said. Hussain also directed the Delhi Metro to ensure that construction activity does not lead to aggravation of air pollution in Delhi. The Industries Department and DSIIDC were directed to put into action, the plan for proper disposal of waste generated by the industrial units, especially in Narela and Bawana industrial areas.

The minister also urged all three municipal commissioners to ensure control of instances of burning in the open and compliance of dust control measures, failing which, senior officers should be held accountable. Hussain also directed the PWD and Delhi Fire Services to undertake water sprinkling, especially after Diwali, for settling the suspended dust particles.

 

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