Graded action plan on, brace for odd-even

By & , TNN | Updated: Jan 17, 2017, 11.02 AM IST


NEW DELHI: The Centre on Monday empowered the Supreme Court­mandated EPCA to enforce the graded response action plan to fight bad air. This essentially means that Delhiites should brace for another round of odd­even and other such measures, should the air quality remain at the 'emergency' level for 48 hours. A notification, entrusting the Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority with the task of implementing the plan with immediate effect, was issued by the environment ministry.

EPCA, comprising environmentalists and senior officials from different departments, may now even order a stop on all construction activity and close brick kilns and hot mix plants, if necessary. Besides, differential rates could be introduced for travel during off­peak hours to encourage use of public transport and parking fee hiked by 3­4 times, depending on the air quality. EPCA will have in place a task force to monitor the situation and advise on action to be taken.

 "The notification basically gives the policy the force of a statute. Anyone can move the court to ensure its implementation or report non­compliance. Without the notification, it was just a policy statement. Now, authorities are bound to act on it," said Ritwick Dutta, an environmental lawyer. The task force will coordinate with chief secretaries and respective state pollution control boards for action and receive periodic reports from them. The environment ministry is, meanwhile, working on its yearly calendar, which is to be implemented from March. "The rationale behind a yearly calendar is to focus on certain measures round the year so that pollution levels don't reach emergency levels," said a ministry official. 

"We are not designing this action plan for an emergency. In fact, the focus will be on poor, very poor and severe air quality days so that we can avoid an emergency situation altogether. The task force will advise us on pollution levels and we will issue directions accordingly. We may call a meeting on Friday to brief top officials," said Sunita Narain, member, EPCA. "CPCB will define whether it's a public health emergency and also forecast any such episode three days in advance... I can expect it (emergency) to happen during Diwali and the crop­burning period. EPCA will direct chief secretaries to roll out the plan," she said. Data for the period between October 1, 2016, and January 13, 2017, reveal that about 8% of the days fell in the "emergency" category, 15% in "severe" and 51% in the "very poor" category. In contrast, the figures were 33%, 19% and 36%, respectively, for 2015­16. "This winter, the mixing height has been better than the previous year. This is because of two reasons: one, wind speed has been higher and, two, there has been action on sources of pollution, such as trucks, waste burning and construction dust," said Anumita Roy Chowdhury, head of CSE's clean air campaign. The action plan comes two years after WHO's urban air quality database found Delhi to have the highest PM2.5 levels globally. Sunil Dhaiya, campaigner, Greenpeace India, said: "We welcome the notification as a logical and a necessary step. Certain actions, such as higher parking charges, greater investment in public transport and pollution­free mobility, need to be in force through the year. A major shortcoming of the plan is that it doesn't include other thermal power plants in the region apart from Badarpur."

You aren’t alone Delhi, all 22 NCR districts are choking

Jayashree Nandi & Kevin Rowe, TNN | Jan 16, 2017, 12.15AM IST

NEW DELHI: New air pollution data derived from satellite imagery suggests that the severe levels of particulate matter (PM2.5, or respirable pollutants) seen in Delhi are also found throughout the 22 districts of the National Capital Region (NCR). These findings raise alarm about potentially serious adverse effects on the health and livelihoods of NCR residents outside of Delhi and underline the importance of a coordinated response to pollution across NCR.


New air pollution data derived from satellite imagery suggests PM 2.5 levels are very high throughout NCR, even sparsely populated rural areas.

Till now the focus has been on the pernicious effects of pollution in the major urban centres, but the new data will help shine the light on exposure to contaminated air in rural areas and smaller cities. For instance, Rewari in Haryana, like other relatively sparse NCR districts far from Delhi, recorded annual PM2.5 levels several times higher than the World Health Organization standard of 10 micrograms per cubic metre between 1998 and 2014. And between 1998 and 2014, NCR districts in Uttar Pradesh to the southeast of Delhi — Bulandshahr, Gautam Budh Nagar and Ghaziabad — registered pollution levels comparable to or even higher than in the national capital.

Rural populations tend to be more vulnerable to the effects of air pollution on their health and livelihoods since most residents work outdoors, where pollution levels are systematically higher than those indoors. Rural populations also have comparably poorer health and poorer access to health care than their urban counterparts, making them more likely to get sick from pollution exposure and less likely to get better. Moreover, air pollutants associated with particulate matter have been show to harm crops and reduce agricultural yields, meaning that air pollution could contribute to deepening poverty.


Until now, analyses of air pollution in NCR have relied primarily on a handful of permanent ground monitors run by the Central Pollution Control Board, the Delhi Pollution Control Committee and the US embassy, all located in or just outside the capital. The satellite data, in contrast, measure pollution levels for every square kilometre across India. The new data were made available by Aaron van Donkelaar, an atmospheric scientist from Dalhousie University, and coauthors, who produced the estimates based on observations from NASA satellites. The satellite imagery provides a measurement called aerosol optical depth (AOD), which is the degree to which aerosols, or particles in the air, prevent transmission of light in an area and is considered a proxy for air quality.

Health ministry deputy commissioner Dr Damodar Bachani acknowledged the widespread impact of air pollution in rural areas. "I have seen satellite images which show even rural areas are equally badly affected. The sources of air pollution may be different in rural areas but you cannot isolate urban air from rural air. The impact of air pollution also strongly dependent on wind direction because of which many rural areas are affected when wind brings pollution from other polluted areas." While we dont know for sure what is causing severe air pollution in these districts of Uttar Pradesh, the sources identified by various research organisations include industries, brick kilns, vehicles, crop fires, waste burning and others. We also know that there are thermal power plants to the east of Delhi and the brick kilns are primarily to the northeast.

The NCR's counter magnet areas, or towns and cities that act as alternatives to Delhi as centres of growth and attract migrants, among them Kanpur, Bareilly and Patiala, often suffer bad air, with pollution ranging from poor to severe. Despite this, the National Capital Region Planning Board's Regional Plan 2021 has no mechanism to address air pollution. It only states, "The pollution impacts have to be identified through appropriate field research studies so that the levels and types of industrialisation can be established for different sub-regions."

Proper enforcement of the December 2, 2016, order of the Supreme Court on the MC Mehta petition against air pollution could reverse the trend. The court directed the notification and implementation of a graded response action plan for the entire NCR. Such a plan envisages action to reduce emissions from various sources depending on the air quality status. For example, when air quality is rated as 'emergency' (PM 2.5 levels higher than 300 micrograms per cubic metre persisting for 48 hours), the entry of trucks into Delhi, other than for essential commodities, is be stopped, vehicles on roads lowered through the odd-even scheme and other steps taken, like banning waste burning, closing brick kilns and controlling emissions from industrial units and hot mix plants.

"It has to be seen how stringently this graded response action plan is enforced in the NCR," said Anumita Roy Chowdhury, head of Centre for Science and Environment's clean-air campaign. "To check industrial pollution, it's important to stop the use of polluting fuels like furnace oil and pet coke, transition to modern technology for brick kilns, change thermal power plants in Dadri and Jhajjar to natural gas and upgrade emission norms for commercial vehicles to Bharat Stage 4 at the earliest."

The union health ministry has recently included chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD) — a health condition closely associated with exposure to polluted air — in its non-communicable diseases programme. As Dr Bachani pointed out, "We know of pollution's association with chronic respiratory diseases, some cancers, heart ailments, low birth weight of new-borns, early onset of cataract and other effects."

On December 20 last year, the NCR Planning Board reviewed the measures being taken by the four member states and Punjab to contain air pollution in the capital and has directed them to submit detailed action plans.

(Kevin Rowe is a PhD student at Harvard University, a PhD Student Affiliate of Evidence for Policy Design, and a Vicki Norberg-Bohm Fellow.)

‘Karnal, Patiala model districts for crop stubble burning ban’

The Punjab and Haryana governments have chosen Karnal and Patiala as model districts for implementing the ban on burning crop stubble, lawyers representing the states told the National Green Tribunal on Monday. The lawyers said that the two were selected because they have a high rural population and agricultural activity.

Crop stubble burning in neighbouring states is a leading cause of pollution in the capital.

The tribunal bench has now asked the two state governments to submit a detailed action plan for the two districts. “Let the secretary concerned of the state file a complete action plan in relation to these two districts at the first instance. They should also put on record the measures they propose to take in furtherance to the judgment of the tribunal, and submit the same positively before the tribunal within two weeks,” the bench ordered.

Meanwhile, the NGT has imposed a complete ban on crop stubble burning in Delhi and adjoining states but the implementation of the order is patchy. The tribunal had asked governments to penalise those who violate the order and give incentives to those farmers who recycle the waste.

Air pollution level in Kolkata among country's highest


| TNN | Jan 3, 2017, 02.15 PM IST


KOLKATA: New Delhi may be reeling under severe air pollution, but Kolkata has not only touched the country's capital city but have also surpassed the city quite a few days in terms of air pollution.

A joint study by the British Deputy High Commission, UKAID and Kolkata Municipal Corporation that was released last year had found that the city was already the fifth highest among major cities in the country emitting 14.8 million tons of Green House Gas(GHG) and also the second highest contributor in terms of per capita CO2 emission, producing 3.29 tonnes of CO2 per capita.

The major sources of air pollution include automobile exhausts which is about 50%, industrial emissions that is almost 48% and the rest 2% from cooking. The findings have been mentioned in details in the book 'Roadmap For Low Carbon And Climate Resilient Kolkata'. It was during the visit of the former UK Prime Minister David Cameron in the city on November 14, 2013 that the UK government had signed a MOU with KMC on low carbon and climate resilient Kolkata.

The study had come up with proposals as to how to combat and control the increasing air pollution in the city. It had suggested that KMC authorities should work together with the relevant state government departments to establish and enforce auto fuel quality guidelines and emission standards to lower pollution. According to former chief environment law officer Biswajit Mukherjee, a plan should be chalked out to control air pollution. "There was a plan discussed way back in 2011 to do something to prevent air pollution caused by firecrackers but it did not materialise. The issue should be looked into seriously now," he said.

State government officials said that the government has taken up a Green Cities mission stressing on developing low carbon urban township areas with special focus on environment. The plan is to stress on using pollution free solar power, battery and electric run vehicles and LED lights to have a low carbon output. State urban development and municipal affairs minister Firhad Hakim recently held a meeting with all municipal bodies of the state by the end of this month to discuss on coming up with measures to control air pollution.

The study also finds that around 70% of the city's 15 million inhabitants suffer from some form of respiratory problems caused by air pollution. The study specially mentioned that vector borne diseases like malaria and dengue as well as respiratory diseases will rise in the city due to the increasing pollution level. This proved to be true this year, with more than 50 persons have died from dengue and several thousand others affected.