Amid a flurry of activity from various authorities to try to combat the alarming levels of air pollution in Delhi, the smog lifted on Tuesday in the National Capital. The India Meteorological Department (IMD) said winds gusting up to 25 kilometres per hour were "flushing pollutants out faster".
The Air Quality Index (AQI) on Tuesday dropped from 365 at 9.45 am to 331 at 3.45 pm, according to the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB). There was also an improvement in air quality in the National Capital Region (NCR) with Greater Noida recording an AQI of 348, Noida at 358, Ghaziabad at 351, Faridabad at 311, and Gurgaon at 328.
An AQI between 0 and 50 is considered 'good', between 51 and 100 is 'satisfactory', between 101 and 200 is 'moderate', between 201 and 300 is 'poor', between 301 and 400 is 'very poor', and between 401 and 500 is 'severe'. An AQI above 500 falls in the 'severe plus' category.
Explaining the process of the reduction in air pollution, Kuldeep Srivastava, head of IMD's regional weather forecasting centre, said, "There are good chances of rainfall in northwest India on Wednesday night and Thursday due to a western disturbance. The precipitation will cover Delhi-NCR, Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Punjab Haryana, Rajasthan, and western Uttar Pradesh."
He also said the situation will not be similar to that of Sunday when high humidity due to light rainfall led to the formation of more potent secondary particles. On Sunday, pollution levels peaked at a three-year high (494), and on Monday, the city's air quality index at 4 pm read 407 before dipping further to 370 at 8.30 pm on Monday. This reading on Monday falls in the "very poor" category.
According to PTI, secondary particles are the product of complicated atmospheric reactions between primary particles — such as particulate matter, sulphur dioxide, and nitrogen dioxide directly emitted by stubble burning and vehicles — in the presence of other factors such as sunlight and moisture. Examples of secondary particles include sulphates, nitrates, ozone and organic aerosols.
Srivastava added that visibility levels improved to 3,000 to 3,500 metres in the afternoon on Tuesday, which is considered normal. The Ministry of Earth Sciences' air quality monitor, SAFAR, said, "The AQI is back to 'very poor' category after rapidly recovering from 'severe' largely due to faster boundary layer winds (40 kilometres per hour)."
PMO sets up panel to monitor pollution
After the Supreme Court issued a slew of directions to the Delhi government and the Centre to curb the air pollution in the city on Monday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday chaired a meeting of senior officials to take stock of the situation. Principal Secretary PK Mishra and Principal Advisor PK Sinha were among those present in the meeting.
The Prime Minister's Office (PMO) also set up a panel headed by NITI Aayog vice-chairperson Rajiv Kumar to monitor air pollution levels, The Economic Times reported. Principal Scientific Advisor (PSA) K Vijay Raghavan and Tarun Khanna of the Harvard Business School, Rajya Sabha MP Rajeev Chandrasekhar, and major general Madhuri Kanitkar are members of the panel, as per the report. The panel is scheduled to submit a report to Modi in two weeks, the report said.
The meet on pollution came after back-to-back review meetings held by Mishra with top officials of Delhi, Punjab, and Haryana on Sunday and Monday.
NGT slams authorities for 'negligence'
Taking cognisance of the deteriorating air quality in Delhi-NCR, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) blamed continuous negligence from authorities for the high pollution levels. The tribunal summoned officials from the Delhi government, Central Pollution Control Board, Delhi Pollution Control Committee and Ministry of Environment and Forests for a meeting on Tuesday.
The bench led by NGT chairperson Justice AK Goel, after an in-chamber proceeding, ordered Delhi chief secretary, DPCC chairman, member secretary of CPCB and concerned secretary to MoEF to assemble in the morning. The NGT asked the Centre to come up with the best solution to tackle pollution and adopt a holistic approach to deal with the issue, ANI reported.
The tribunal was also examining the status of implementation of the Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP) and other measures adopted to control air pollution. Pulling up the Centre, the tribunal said, "Why has the government not been able to work out a system for prevention? The steps taken in an emergency situation is like disaster management. Instead of dealing with just the problem at the time, there has to be a holistic approach. Methods need to be revisited."
The government, in response, submitted, "Meetings have been held at the level of secretaries. We have given Rs 1,150 crore to different states, 14,000 machines were provided last year and 50,000 machines have been pressed this year too."
It added that at the ground-level the farmers need a major push, and municipal and industrial waste burning needs to be controlled as it contributes 60 percent to pollution. The Delhi government also told the NGT that actions taken by the administration had been "deficient" to deal with the crisis, and more steps need to be taken to tackle air pollution in the city.
"Coordinated actions of enforcement have been done in the last four months. We feel that the actions taken by us are deficient. We need to take more steps," Delhi chief secretary, Vijay Kumar Dev told the tribunal.
Second day of Odd-Even
The relief was also due to significantly fewer vehicles on Delhi roads with the AAP government rolling out its Odd-Even scheme on Monday. Tuesday marked the second day of the scheme, which is set to end on 15 November. As part of the scheme, only odd or even-numbered cars can ply on the day assigned to them.
On Tuesday, Delhi transport minister Kailash Gahlot monitored its implementation and said he was happy to see odd-numbered vehicles on the city roads. The transport minister visited several places to monitor the enforcement of the road rationing scheme that allows vehicles with odd and even number plates to ply on alternate days.
"#OddEven 2nd Day: Happy to see Odd Number vehicles on Delhi Roads," Gahlot said in a tweet. In another tweet, the transport minister said, "We all should encourage car pooling/sharing," he tweeted. On Monday, the Supreme Court demanded data from the state government on the effectiveness of the scheme in curbing pollution in the past.
Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal claimed that the exercise on the first day was "successful" as 15 lakh cars were off the roads. As many as 259 violators were on Monday fined Rs 4,000, including BJP leader Vijay Goel who, in a "symbolic protest", drove his odd number SUV from his residence at Ashoka Road to Janpath. His party termed the scheme as an "election stunt" by the AAP government which is causing harassment to the people.
Two thousand civil defence volunteers, 465 teams of the Delhi traffic police, revenue and transport departments were deployed on Monday.
Politics around pollution
With the rolling out of Kejriwal-led government's road rationing scheme on Monday, the BJP and AAP accused each other of politicising the deteriorating air quality situation. BJP leader Vijay Goel termed the initiative "an election stunt" by the state government. His action invited a rebuke from the Delhi chief minister, who said he was "pained by this behaviour".
"At a time when residents of Delhi are supporting the odd-even scheme, the BJP is opposing the efforts of people to reduce pollution. This is not right. The BJP should not do politics. They should support the people of Delhi," Kejriwal told reporters at his residence before he carpooled with Health Minister Satyendar Jain and Labour Minister Gopal Rai to his office.
Hitting out at Goel, Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia said the BJP leader's job was to do politics, but he has no solution to the problem.
The Delhi Congress, including party leader Shatrughan Sinha termed the Odd-Even scheme as the state government's "drama for political mileage". Delhi Congress president Subhash Chopra said the Kejriwal government should be questioned what initiatives it had taken to address the issue of air pollution in the National Capital.
Last week, a public health emergency was declared in Delhi-NCR following an alarming level of pollution which the AAP government said was because of stubble-burning in neighbouring states.
With inputs from agencies
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Updated Date: Nov 05, 2019 19:20:15 IST