CSE welcomes SC ruling on tackling pollution

Smoky effect:Smog engulfs parts of the Capital causing poor visibilityFile photo: R.V. MoorthyR_V_Moorthy  

The Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) on Friday welcomed the Supreme Court ruling directing the Ministry of Environment and Forests and Climate Change (MoEF& CC) to notify a comprehensive action plan for a long-term strategy for all key sources of pollution in Delhi and National Capital Region (NCR).

This action plan was prepared by the Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority (EPCA) under the direction of the Supreme Court.

CSE’s executive director-research and advocacy Anumita Roychowdhury said, “This plan is designed for sustained improvement in the air quality over time to help meet the clean air standards. The challenge is daunting as the plan shows Delhi will have to reduce particulate pollution by at least 74% to meet the standards. Such a target cannot be met merely with a day-to-day emergency response and crisis management.”

Key bodies

Ms. Roychowdhury added, “In fact, according to the notification of the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), as per the Air Act, daily and hourly standards should be met 98% of the time in a year and they should not exceed the standards on two consecutive days.”

The proposed plan has identified the key implementing bodies that would be responsible for each of the action in a time-bound manner. It has also provided for a clear monitoring and oversight mechanism to assess implementation.

According to Ms. Roychowdhury, the plan has come at a very opportune moment when the Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP) has started to lower the daily pollution peaks.

In fact, the CPCB in its Diwali pollution release has stated that so far, this year, the number of days with satisfactory air quality has increased by 87% since 2016.

Also, there is at least a 28% reduction in the number of days with very poor air quality compared to 2016. Even though the Diwali night experienced emergency levels, pre-Diwali pollution was much lower than the pre-Diwali pollution in 2016.

‘Weather helped’

Favourable weather has helped, but stepped up action has also influenced this trend. A more comprehensive and integrated action is now needed to sustain the improvement over time.

This is the first-ever plan for this region that takes an integrated view of the problem and prescribes short, medium and long-term measures for all key sources of pollution — vehicles, industry, power plants, waste burning, construction activities, road dust as well as episodic pollution like biomass burning.

Four action points related to vehicles — date of moving the manufacturing of all vehicle models to BS-VI standards, action on dieselisation, tightening of limit values for Pollution under Control (PUC) certification, and integration of onboard diagnostic system with PUC — have been set aside for further hearing. The rest of the action plan has been approved for notification.

Disciplined execution

Several action points listed in the comprehensive action plan have already been set in motion. An air quality monitoring plan for Delhi and NCR is already under way. Only trucks destined for Delhi and not older than 10 years are allowed entry after payment of an Environment Compensation Charge. The PUC programme is being reformed. The apex court has banned the use of dirty pet-coke and furnace oil and directed enforcement of new SOx and NOx emissions standards for the industry sector to come into force from December 31, 2017.

Ms. Roychowdhury said, “This much-awaited plan now requires stringent and disciplined implementation with accountability.”