Four years on, GRAP yet to evolve

Many times, courts have had to intervene for the authorities to take action

Published - December 03, 2021 02:19 am IST -

Despite the Central Government’s directions nearly five years ago to “learn from experience” and “calibrate” the Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP) to control air pollution, the policy has not been revised to accommodate predictions.

Many times, the courts have had to intervene for the authorities to take action, which are already mentioned in GRAP.

For instance, on Thursday afternoon, the Delhi Government decided to shut down schools after the Supreme Court earlier in the day questioned why schools were functioning despite high pollution. There are similar examples in the recent past.

Closing of schools, odd-even vehicle rationing scheme, and banning construction activities are actions under the “emergency” category of GRAP.

“The Graded Response Action Plan should be seen as an evolving plan… As more experience is gained in its implementation, it may be suitably calibrated and the Hon’ble Supreme Court be apprised accordingly,” Arun Kumar Mehta, Joint Secretary, MoEF&CC, had said in a letter dated January 13, 2017, to then chairman of the erstwhile EPCA, which used to implement GRAP.

But GRAP did not evolve to take actions in anticipation of deteriorating air quality as per predictions from Government agencies.

GRAP is a set of measures to be taken to reduce air pollution depending on the current level of pollution. It was notified by the Union Environment Ministry in 2017 to fight air pollution, based on the SC directions.

Problems in the past too

On November 13, the Supreme Court pulled up the Centre and the Delhi Government for the air pollution and later in the day, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal announced closure of schools and a ban on construction activities.

Though these two measures are on the list of actions under the “emergency” category of GRAP, the CM’s announcement was separate.

The CM doesn’t have the authority to impose GRAP, as per rules.

On November 17, The Hindu had reported how despite Delhi’s AQI being “severe” for eight out of 10 days after Deepavali, measures under the “emergency” category of GRAP such as closing of schools and banning construction activities were not implemented by the authorities.

On November 24, the Supreme Court asked the Commission for Air Quality Management (CAQM) in NCR and Adjoining Areas to take actions under GRAP based on predictions of air quality rather than waiting for the AQI to get worse.

The CAQM is in the process of doing it, as per officials, but an updated GRAP is yet to be notified.

Anumita Roychowdhury, executive director, Centre for Science and Environment, said that the Government should consider forecasts of air quality to implement GRAP measures rather than waiting for the air to be “severe” for days at a stretch.

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