Ban on old diesel vehicles, other steps taken to curb pollution (Roundup)
New Delhi, Nov 7 (IANS) Even as the smog situation improved a little on Monday, the national capital continued to suffer from “severe” air quality, prompting Lt Governor Najeeb Jung to announce some harsh measures to curb air pollution.
Jung ordered immediate shutting down of all polluting industries in Delhi and de-registration of diesel vehicles older than 15 years.
On the other hand, Union Environment Minister Anil Madhav Dave was in a huddle with the environment ministers of Delhi, Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh.
Emerging from the meeting, Dave told reporters that around 80 per cent of the problems leading to rising pollution levels is due to local factors, and only 20 per cent is due to neighbouring states.
The National Green Tribunal (NGT) also pulled up the Delhi government over unprecedented smog levels that have turned the national capital into a virtual gas chamber.
System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting and Research (SAFAR) showed levels of PM (particulate matter) 2.5 and PM 10 breaching the 500-mark in most locations on Monday.
According to Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), the Air Quality Index (AQI) for Delhi remained “severe” with the index value 423.
The US Embassy’s air pollution monitor, which covers Chanakyapuri area, showed AQI exceeding 550, categorised as “hazardous”.
Particulate Matter less than 10 micrometres in diameter (PM10) is so small that it can get into lungs and can cause serious health problems.
Particulate Matter less than 2.5 micrometers in diameter (PM2.5) is produced by burning fuels.
Private weather forecaster, Skymet, said the air quality is expected to improve from Tuesday onward as strong winds of 15-20 kmph are expected from the northwest, which would help in fast dispersal of pollutants in the air.
Concerned with the serious air pollution, Jung held a meeting with Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia, Health Minister Satyendar Jain and Environment Minister Imran Hussain.
He banned bursting of firecrackers, including during weddings, and ordered shutting down of all polluting industries in Delhi.
A statement from Jung’s office said the firecracker ban will not apply to religious functions.
Jung also ordered ‘no entry’ into Delhi for overloaded trucks and those not destined for the city with immediate effect.
“In two days, a system to turn away overloaded and non-destined trucks will be worked out,” Jung’s office said.
On its part, the Delhi government has intensified efforts at vacuum cleaning and washing of city roads to curb pollution due to dust. It has also ordered schools to remain closed for three days and stopped all construction and demolition activities till Friday.
The coal-based thermal power plant at Badarpur in south Delhi, which generates fly ash, was ordered to be shut for 10 days.
Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal also made an appeal, saying it is time for the Central and state governments to work together.
“Delhi is willing to do whatever required and cooperate in every endeavour,” he tweeted.
Meanwhile, Union Minister Dave has said that the Central government will soon issue a state-specific environment protection calendar.
Asserting that dust is one of the major reasons of pollution, he said states must sprinkle water on time.
The Delhi government urged Dave to direct the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) to conduct a comprehensive study to determine the exact cause of rising air pollution.
In a letter to Dave, the Delhi Environment Minister urged him to recommend corrective short, medium and long term measures to curb air pollution in the city.
Slamming the Delhi government over the adverse air quality, NGT Chairman Justice Swatanter Kumar asked why preventive measures were not taken on time.
“Why haven’t you started artificial rain or sprinkling of water on roads from helicopters to control dust,” he asked of the Delhi government.
The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government, however, informed the tribunal about a slew of measures taken to curb rising air pollution in the city.
The Delhi government also sought public suggestions to tackle the problem of air pollution.
Delhi Tourism Minister Kapil Mishra created a petition on Change.org seeking suggestions from people on how to make the air cleaner in the city. The petition got 5,000 responses in just one hour.
The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) submitted a 10-point Emergency Response Plan to the Delhi government and the Ministry of Environment, Forests & Climate Change (MoEFCC).
TERI Director General Ajay Mathur recommended use of technology to convert agricultural waste into bio-char, congestion pricing for all vehicles and gradual phase out of old vehicles.
“To avoid burning of agricultural residues as a sustainable business model, the State/Central governments should buy the agricultural residue from the farmers in advance which can be later used for producing bio-char or briquettes as a direct energy source with controls,” TERI recommended.