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Graded Response Action Plan back in Delhi as authorities struggle to keep rapidly rising pollution in check

For the second year in a row, Graded Response Action Plan is being implemented in Delhi to battle the increasingly thickening envelope of polluted air in the capital city during the winters.

Bhure Lal, the chairman of Environment Pollution Control Authority (EPCA) which implements the plan told Firstpost that the plan which has been launched on Monday will be in force till March next year.

 Graded Response Action Plan back in Delhi as authorities struggle to keep rapidly rising pollution in check

File image of pollution in Delhi. AP

“We can see that sources of pollution have not decreased much. Be it stubble burning in the neighbouring states or vehicular and industrial pollution in Delhi, all the sources are intact. Hence the air quality has deteriorated as it did in the winters last year,” he said explaining the rationale for implementing the plan again.

Graded Action Response Plan (GRAP) is a set of rules approved by the Supreme Court of India on 2 December 2016. These rules were notified last year by the Ministry of Environment and Forests.

Apart from other pollution control measures mentioned in the plan, the odd-even scheme to rein in vehicular pollution snowballed into a major controversy.

“GRAP is implemented as response to degrading level of air pollution in Delhi during winters. The rules which come into force due to its implementation become more and more stringent with the rise in pollution levels in the capital city,” says an EPCA source.

Though it was expected that the EPCA would implement the measures listed in the first level of GRAP on the first day of it, but drastic deterioration of air quality has led it to implement measures far stringent than the first level.

As per the notification issued by the Ministry of Environment and Forests, the EPCA should indulge in information dissemination in social media, mobile apps should be used to inform people about the pollution levels, contact details of control room, enable them to report polluting activities to the concerned authorities, and actions that will be taken by government based on the level of pollution, as the first step to battle degrading air quality.

But sources in the EPCA said that the air pollution level in the capital city at present is too high to implement such moderate measures.

The first level of GRAP is implemented when the air quality of the capital city is PM2.5 or PM10 concentration value is between 61-120 µg/m3 or 101-350 µg/m3 respectively. As per recent readings of major air quality monitors, the presence of P.M. 2.5 exceeds 150 µg/m3 in a number of locations including Major Dhyan Chand National Stadium, United States Embassy and Shadipur.

Sunita Narayan, member of Environmental Pollution Control Authority told the Hindustan Times, “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.”

Diesel generators are already banned as air pollution level has reached the ‘Very Poor’ level as the presence of PM2.5 or PM10 concentration in air is between 121-250µg/m3 or 351-430 µg/m3 respectively.

The air quality level is likely to dip further, sources in the EPCA say.

The other measures listed to be adopted when the air quality level dips to the ‘Very Poor’ level are enhancement of parking fee by 3-4 times, increase of bus and metro services by augmenting contract buses and increasing frequency of service, stop use of coal or firewood in hotels and open eateries, resident welfare associations and individual house owners to provide electric heaters during winter to security staff to avoid open burning by them, alert in newspapers, television, radio to advise people with respiratory and cardiac patients to avoid polluted areas and restrict outdoor movement.

Environment activist Polash Chatterjee said that this time implementation of GRAP would be easier as and more effective than it was in the last year.

“As we know that the import of polluting fuels such as pet coke this year is banned and the authorities have already ordered the industries in Delhi to use cleaner fuels, these efforts are likely to fructify this year,” he said.

The Centre banned import of pet coke as fuel to prevent further deterioration of the environment. On the other hand the Delhi Pollution Control Committee has already ordered industries in the capital city to switch to cleaner fuels which include BS-VI diesel and petrol, natural gas (CNG and PNG), LPG and biogas.

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Updated Date: Oct 15, 2018 21:57:53 IST