As a layer of fog enveloped Delhi-NCR, air quality stood in the 'very poor' category on Thursday and stubble burning incidents rose in neighbouring states, the Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP) came into force, apart from other pollution control measures like a ban on fuel-powered generators.
The plan, which will stay in effect for three years in Delhi, Noida, Ghaziabad, Greater Noida, Faridabad, and Gurgaon, will also include mechanised sweeping and frequent sprinkling of water on roads and night patrolling to check dust, industrial emissions and burning of waste.
GRAP was formulated by the Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority (EPCA) held with state government representatives and experts. It was then approved in the same year by the Supreme Court and notified in 2017 by the Centre. It entails action and coordination between 13 agencies in Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Rajasthan.
Instead of mentioning steps that are to be taken to combat air pollution all through the year, the plan details specific measures that will come into effect as and when the air quality deteriorates and enters a specific AQI category, for example, 'poor' or 'severe'. It is meant to be followed when the air quality moves from poor to very poor, which has become an annual phenomenon in Delhi-NCR around the onset of winters. The plan also entails shutting down schools and the odd-even vehicle scheme if the air quality enters the 'severe+' category.
Here are the steps that the plan lays out depending on the air quality category recorded in Delhi-NCR:
Moderate to Poor Category Air Quality (PM2.5 of 61-120 cu.m. or PM10 of 101-350 cu.m)
¢ Fine on garbage burning ¢ Enforce pollution control regulations in brick kilns and industries ¢ Mechanised sweeping and sprinkling of water on roads ¢ Ban on firecrackers
Very Poor Category Air Quality (PM2.5 of 121-250 cu.m. or PM10 of around 351-430 cu.m)
¢ Ban on use of diesel generator sets ¢ Increase parking fee by 3-4 times ¢ Increase bus and metro services ¢ Discourage burning fires in winters in apartments ¢ Movement of people outside to be restricted for people with respiratory or cardiac conditions
Severe Category Air Quality (PM 2.5 over 250 cu.m. or PM10 over 430 cu.m)
¢ Closing of brick kilns, stone crushers and hot mix plants ¢ Maximisation of power generation only from natural gas to minimise generation from coal ¢ Encourage public transport ¢ Frequent sprinkling of water on roads
Severe+ or Emergency Category Air Quality (PM 2.5 over 300 cubic metre or PM10 over 500 cu.m. for over 48 hours)
¢ No entry for trucks into Delhi; only trucks carrying essential commodities allowed ¢ Stop construction work ¢ Introduction of odd-even scheme for vehicles ¢ Task force to decide additional steps such as the closing of schools
Ahead of the GRAP's commencement date, Uttar Pradesh Pollution Control Board (UPPCB) had asked polluting units to submit affidavits of different compliances, or they will be liable to pay up heavy penalties, ranging from Rs 10 lakh to Rs 1 crore, upon any instances of violation. The board also issued directions to construction sites to install CCTV cameras, whose control will rest with the board for monitoring.
Meanwhile, Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal told reporters that a fermented liquid solution will be sprayed on the fields to soften the stubble and prevent its burning, construction sites will be strictly and regularly monitored, municipal corporations will carry out mechanical sweeping of roads, smog guns will be used and area-specific action plans will be carried out in Okhla Phase-II, Dwarka, Ashok Vihar, Bawana, Narela, Mundka, Punjabi Bagh, Wazirpur, Rohini, Vivek Vihar, Anand Vihar, RK Puram and Jahangirpuri, where a high concentration of particulate matter was witnessed last year.