Delhi Launches Air Pollution Action Plan

IAS Prelims 2023

The Supreme Court approved the Centre’s graded response action plan to tackle different levels of pollution.

“Enforcement of the plan shall be under the orders of Environment Pollution (Control and Prevention) Authority (EPCA) and all other authorities should act in aid of such direction,” said a bench led by Chief Justice of India T S Thakur.

The action plan, which was notified by the Union Environment and Forest Ministry and submitted by the Central Pollution Control Board to the Supreme Court in November 2016, will cover the entire National Capital Region – the first such initiative.

Officials of the Delhi, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan governments had been issued directions as per the plan. As per the air quality index values observed in the past 48 hours, he said moderate to poor conditions were observed in the NCR and very poor in Delhi.

As per the action plan, the measures for very poor air quality include stopping the use of diesel generator sets, increasing parking fee by up to four times, augmenting public transport and stopping the use of coal and firewood by hotels and eateries.

Graded Response Plan

The Centre termed levels of pollution when particulate matter (PM) 2.5 levels are above 250 micrograms per cubic metre (µg/m³) or PM 10 levels are above 430 µg/m³ in the ambient air as severe, and said immediate steps need to be taken at such a point, including a ban on construction and implementation of odd-even scheme.

Under the plan, the air quality has been divided into four categories — moderate to poor, very poor, severe and emergency — and specific actions have been prescribed for each situation.

The graded response takes into account the seasonality of pollution in Delhi. While major sources of pollution, including vehicles, road dust, biomass burning, construction, power plants and industries, remain continuous throughout all seasons, the episodic pollution from stubble burning, increase in biomass burning, etc varies across seasons.

A task force of officials from the central and state pollution control boards, health experts and India Meteorological Department officials will also be set up. This body will work on forecasting and review of pollution levels.

The job of ensuring implementation of the action plan will be EPCA’s, which will delegate the responsibility to the concerned departments.

According to EPCA’s report, at least 16 agencies will have to work together to implement the various parts of the plan. These include the municipal corporations of all NCR towns, the traffic police, police, transport departments, Delhi Metro Rail Corporation, Delhi Transport Corporation, Resident Welfare Associations, Public Works Departments and Central Public Works Department, Chief Controller of Explosives, and the Petroleum and Explosives Safety Organisation.

Each body has been set a task that it will have to carry out when EPCA asks it to, based on the concentration of pollutants.