EPCA releases Report Card on Delhi’s air pollution

Delhi and its surrounding region’s air quality is showing the first signs of improvement, but the air is not even close to being called clean yet – says an assessment report released here today by the Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority (EPCA).  The report comes as the winter of 2017-18 draws to a close, and after a critical period in the fight against air pollution in Delhi-NCR.

This reduction in pollution levels shows that we can make a difference. But the air is not completely clean yet. We must not lose the momentum in our fight for clean air. We must not lose sight of the fact that right to breathe is fundamental,” said Bhure Lal, EPCA chairperson, while releasing the Report Card.

The air in this region of the National Capital is so polluted and toxic, that all our combined efforts have reduced pollution merely from the severe-severe plus category to poor-very poor category,” pointed out EPCA member Sunita Narain.

She added: “Remember, very poor category is still deadly. According to the health index of the government, prolonged exposure to this level of pollution is hazardous, even for healthy people. This means that all of us breathing this air are exposed to toxins and this will impact our health and more importantly, health of our children. Therefore, we need to do much more to reduce pollution and bring it to the good-moderate level.”

The battle against air pollution needs a comprehensive plan, credible monitoring, enhanced implementation and rigorous enforcement, says the EPCA Report Card.

The winter of 2017-18 – what does the data show

Data from the period October 1, 2017 to February 25, 2018 points to a slight improvement in air quality levels. An analysis of the Central Pollution Control Board’s air quality index data shows that the number of days in the severe category has decreased for each month in comparison to the previous year, except in January. In February, 16 per cent of the days were in the moderately poor category, compared to 8 per cent in the previous year.

“Overall, there is a small difference – the number of days in the poor-very poor category have increased as compared to the very poor-severe category,” says Narain.

But there is a word of caution as comparison of PM2.5 concentrations at four monitoring stations — Mandir Marg, Punjabi Bagh, R K Puram and Anand Vihar – shows that the impact is not visible yet. Pollution levels remain high. The data on the hot-spot pollution areas, in particular Anand Vihar, also shows that pollution levels are extremely high – and do not show any sign of improvement.

“The Graded Response Action Plan and the emergency actions that were taken have had an impact. However, we must not lose sight of the challenge,” Narain says.

 The agenda for future

The report of EPCA lists the actions that have already been taken and tracks those that need to be taken. Said Bhure Lal: “We need the following actions, at scale and speed”:

  • Massive augmentation of public transport so that people do not have to use their cars.
  • Massive move towards cleaner fuels like natural gas or electricity generated from cleaner sources, including renewables.
  • Massive efforts to enforce and implement directions for not burning of garbage and dust management. Currently, we do not segregate waste at the household level and this is adding to the crisis of waste burning in the country.
  • Massive efforts to subsidise farmer’s technologies that will allow them to re-plough the straw into the ground.

According to the EPCA, the key work to be done March 2018 onwards is as follows:

Work to be done Agencies
1. Complete setting up network of monitoring stations and link all State pollution boards/CPCB
2. Ensure that all actions are continuously taken as listed in GRAP for moderate category All state governments with regular monitoring by chief secretaries
3. Notify the Comprehensive Action Plan MOEF&CC
4. Implement the Comprehensive Action Plan through regular monitoring and enforcement MOEF&CC
5. Implement the directions of the Hon’ble Supreme Court of August 10, on PUC MORTH and state transport departments
6. Ensure that trucks move to completed and commissioned EPE/WPE and that orders of Hon’ble Supreme Court on diversion of non-destined trucks and ECC are strictly adhered to. State governments
7. Ensure RFID is installed as per the directions of the Hon’ble Supreme Court by onset of winter 2018 SDMC
8. Implement actions on public transport, non-motorised transport and car restraint as listed and agreed upon with timelines in CAP MOEF&CC to ensure implementation
9. Enforce directions of Hon’ble Supreme Court on pet coke/FO ban and implement standards for SOX and NOx in all industries and facilitate shift to cleaner fuel State pollution control boards
10. Ensure that all industries are equipped with online monitoring, which is made available publicly State pollution control boards
11. Ensure that there is strict regulation/ban on polluting industries operating from non-conforming areas EPCA is working on report on this and will discuss with all stakeholders on how to proceed
12. Expediting emission standards for thermal power plants Hon’ble Court to give directions
13. Ensure operation of gas based Bawana (unit 1) from March 1, 2018 and closure of coal based Dadri power plant in winter 2018 Delhi Power Department
14. Implement the recommendations of the High Level Task Force on crop burning MOEF&CC is the designated nodal agency

 

Emphasises Narain: “It is important not to lose the momentum for clean air. It is also important to realize that even with all this attention and work done, we have only improved air quality marginally and that levels remain at poor-very poor category. This is hazardous for health.“

“We say this because current levels of air pollution are unacceptable and are a serious health issue. The damage to human health because of toxins in air must not be under-estimated,” says the EPCA report card.

Says Narain: “This report card presents the actions taken till now and the work that needs to be done. It is designed to keep us on track. So, that we can win this battle for our right to clean air. It is clear that all governments are extremely cognizant of the challenge and are taking measures to reduce deadly air pollution. But it is equally clear that we will need much more enhanced action and at much greater speed.“

For a detailed report card on action taken/to be taken click here

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