Delhi

Action plans in place, implementation of pollution-control policies to be key in 2019

With the Lok Sabha elections expected in April and May 2019, experts say there is a need to make air pollution and public health a poll issue.

With the Lok Sabha elections expected in April and May 2019, experts say there is a need to make air pollution and public health a poll issue.   | Photo Credit: Sushil Kumar Verma

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Short-term and long-term measures taken; experts say implementation needs to be strengthened

With an emergency plan in place since last year, 2018 was supposed to be the year when Delhi and the larger National Capital Region had the best shot yet at controlling air pollution with a long-term action plan being rolled out as well.

After the implementation of the Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP) in 2017, the Centre put out the draft notification for the Comprehensive Action Plan (CAP), which has measures aimed at curbing emissions from all major sources, in March this year, followed by orders to start implementation before winter.

Under the supervision of the Central Pollution Control Board and the Supreme Court-appointed Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority (EPCA), both plans were put into motion in October. As a result, among the measures taken were the permanent shuttering of the Badarpur thermal power plant and the introduction of the cleaner Bharat Stage-VI fuel in Delhi.

While both short-term and long-term measures have been taken, experts say there is a need to strengthen the implementation.

“This year has set the stage. Overall, the data is showing that the number of days with severe and very poor air quality index has reduced. This gives us hope. The biggest lesson is that Delhi-NCR knows what to do for each source. The next phase will be to scale up implementation. The political system and the institutions need to gear up,” said Anumita Roychowdhury, the executive director for research and advocacy at the Centre for Science and Environment.

She said that Delhi had become “coal power-free” with the shutting down of the Badarpur plant, had banned pet coke and had become the first city to switch to BS-VI fuel.

“Apart from those long-term measures, the emergency measures under GRAP have helped control the peaking of pollution levels,” she said.

In order for the measures to have a greater impact, she said there was a need for uniform stringent implementation across the NCR. For instance, when petrol prices were fluctuating earlier this year, the Uttar Pradesh government cut VAT rates, leading to cheaper fuel in neighbouring Noida and Ghaziabad. This, according to a Delhi Petrol Dealers Association statement on November 18, was leading to Delhiites buying 15 lakh litres of the BS-IV fuel every day from neighbouring States. Though cheaper, the BS-IV petrol and diesel was not as clean as the BS-VI fuel sold in Delhi.

According to other experts, the governments of the NCR and the Centre are yet to take precautionary steps.

Precautions

“We could have learned from GRAP and CAP and adopt a precautionary approach instead of a reactionary one. Proactive steps like strengthening public transport should have been taken this year. Though Badarpur plant closed, there are several other plants in the region. For stubble burning, the government allocated thousands of crores, but it remained on paper. Engagement with farmers was missing,” said Sunil Dahiya, a campaigner with Greenpeace.

While the levels of particulate matter this year have been lower than last year, according to a Delhi Environment Department statement on Wednesday, the number of monitoring stations in the city have also increased.

With Lok Sabha elections expected in April and May 2019, experts said there was a need to make air pollution and public health a poll issue.

“We have an opportunity in 2019 to say that we will not vote for you, if you do not promise clean air,” said Mr. Dahiya.

Ms. Roychowdhury added that “public energy” should be focused on making pollution an election issue, and not just an issue when pollution levels spike in the winter.

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Printable version | Jan 23, 2020 11:52:51 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Delhi/action-plans-in-place-implementation-of-pollution-control-policies-to-be-key-in-2019/article25845076.ece

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