As the air quality in Delhi-National Capital Region (NCR) begins to worsen, the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) has deployed 40 teams to monitor for pollution violators, according to officials.
These newly formed teams will assist in the implementation of the preventive measure set out in the revised Graduated Response Action Plan (GRAP) to address air pollution in Delhi and its adjoining areas. Teams will take action based on the severity of the situation under GRAP, which started from October 1 onwards.
“In addition to these 40, the Delhi government has also created around 300 such kits,” said an official from the Air Quality Management Commission.
Each team will have 2-3 members, the official said, and will monitor potential polluters and coordinate with state pollution control teams to curb the cause of pollution up to three days in advance, according to forecasts.
Under the revised GRAP, the environment department will use the new real-time source distribution system that will help identify sources of air pollution in real time and the data will be available from October 20.
GRAP was notified by the Ministry of Environment in January 2017 as a response to serious pollution observed in Delhi and adjoining areas. It is an emergency response plan that is implemented only when the air quality drops below a certain threshold.
Under the GRAP, measures such as prohibiting the burning of garbage and increasing mechanized sweeping, prohibition of diesel generator sets, stoppage of construction activities, closure of schools, prohibition of entry of diesel trucks, etc., are taken according to the level of contamination. .
Until last year, GRAP would go into effect on October 15. But this year it went into effect on October 1. Previously, measures under the “very bad” and “severe” categories of GRAP came into force only when the air quality deteriorated and is maintained. at prescribed levels for 48 hours, but this year it would be three days before such an event.
Previously, the authorities would implement the measures only after the concentrations of PM2.5 and PM10 touched a particular threshold. This time, the restrictions will be based on AQI values instead of PM2.5 and PM10 concentration.
The green war room will monitor violations and redress complaints and grievances according to the practice followed during the last two years.
The GRAP has been classified into four different stages of adverse air quality in Delhi: Stage I – ‘Poor’, if the Air Quality Index (AQI) is 201-300; Stage II: ‘Very Poor’ if the AQI is between 301 and 400; Stage III – ‘Severe’, if AQI is 401-450; and Stage IV – ‘Severe Plus’, if the AQI is above 450).
Although the department has taken these steps in advance, experts are concerned about stubble burning in adjacent Punjab.
Sunil Dahiya, Analyst at the Center for Research on Energy and Clean Air, while highlighting the scale of rice cultivation in Punjab and the need for manpower needed to raise awareness and prevent farmers from burning stubble, says: “There will be fires in 10 fields , stopping 2 will hardly have any impact. The government lacks the manpower and the will to prevent farmers from burning stubble.”
Stubble burning is considered a key contributor to air pollution in Delhi-NCR. Rice straw burning is widely practiced in Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh to clear the field for the next planting, especially during October-November.
On Friday, Environment Minister Bhupender Yadav rebuked Punjab for its readiness to take concrete action on the ground for air quality management. “The state government had failed to plan properly for the management of nearly 5.75 million tonnes of stubble, which is a huge gap and is likely to have an adverse impact on air quality in Delhi and the NCR region,” Yadav said. .
Experts say the late withdrawal of the monsoon has also increased the chances of stubble burning in one fell swoop, leaving farmers with a small window to grow rabi. The rice harvest would peak at the end of October.
According to residue burning data from the Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI), 113,304 cases of crop burning were reported in October and November 2021. 85,048 such cases were recorded in Punjab and Haryana.
According to various estimates, the contribution of agricultural fires to Delhi-NCR air pollution ranged from 14% to 48% in the peak season of Diwali in 2021.
According to the (IARI) real-time monitoring of rice residue burning events, 192 counts of fires were recorded in Punjab from September 15 to 30, while 2 such incidents were detected in Haryana and Rajasthan. 12 incidents were also detected in Uttar Pradesh. In addition, 45 incidents were reported in Punjab on Sunday.