Delhi and NCR begin to breathe easy as stubble fires doused
Delhi and NCR saw a substantial drop in pollution levels on Tuesday as air quality in six out of 15 regions in the national Capital improved to “very poor” level from “severe” for the first time in the past week. Incidentally the improvement has been witnessed soon after farmers in neighbouring States stopped burning stubbles.
Meanwhile, the Delhi Government’s attempt to seek exemption for two wheelers and women from Odd-Even scheme got a setback with the National Green Tribunal (NGT) on Tuesday refusing to exempt them. The NGT directed the city administration to ensure that over 10-year-old diesel
vehicles are taken off roads without delay.
Later, the Delhi Government withdrew its plea as the NGT was not convinced with its submission that the city did not have adequate public transport to cater to over 25 lakh commuters. The tribunal, which expressed concern over the high pollution level which was an “environmental and health emergency”, said the city should “not gift infected lungs to its children.”
The green tribunal also asked the Delhi Government to choose a spot in the city by 4 pm on Tuesday and sprinkle water from helicopter on the area to know the efficacy of the step in reducing air pollution.
Rapping the Delhi Government for its plea, the tribunal asked why exemption should be given to two-wheelers when they are a major cause of pollution.
“On what basis are you asking exemption for two-wheelers,” NGT chairperson Justice Swatanter Kumar said.
During the hearing, the NGT also asked what the States of Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh doing other than blaming each other. “What is UP, Haryana and Punjab doing? All of you are just blaming each other. You cannot just shift blame,” it said.
“The Delhi Government wishes to withdraw its application filed for modification of our order. They have the liberty to file a fresh plea. The application is disposed of,” the Bench said.
Regarding functioning of industries in the National Capital Region (NCR), the Bench said, “We clarify that industries manufacturing essential commodities like eatables, have been exempted from the prohibiting orders of the NGT.
“We also direct that the industries whose emissions are within the prescribed parameters and which are non-polluting and compliant to the directions, can operate subject to verification.”
It also allowed the construction work of the Eastern Peripheral Expressway in the NCR, which will bypass Delhi on the eastern side, subject to an assurance by the senior-most officer of the National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) that no pollution would be caused.
The tribunal noted that as per reports of the pollution control committees, two-wheelers caused greater pollution, and according to Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) and Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC), approximately 30 per cent pollution was caused by them.
“If you permit 68 lakh two-wheelers to ply, what will be the extent of the pollution? You said thousands of buses were ordered but have not got a single bus yet. You wait for a crisis,” the Bench said.
The Bench, in the meanwhile, directed the Ministry of Environment and Forests, GNCT of Delhi, Transport department and pollution control boards to coordinate with each other in order to control pollutants in the air and take steps in accordance with its orders.
With wind speed almost doubling as compared to last week and chances of drizzle in NCR and neighbouring States, the air quality is set to improve further, falling under “very poor” or “poor” category, experts said.
According to the CPCB the average AQI of Delhi-NCR was 398 while the major pollutant PM2.5 or particles with diameter less than 2.5mm recorded 397 units at 6 pm -- considered “very poor”.
However, the average AQI of Delhi at 6 pm was 407 with PM2.5 at 406 units, considered “severe”.
This is considered an “improvement” as for past seven days since November 7, Delhi had been breathing toxic air with average AQI ranging between 460 and 500, on a scale of 0 to 500 and PM2.5 reached a dangerous 945 units at some places including Ghaziabad -- 37 times the safe limit.
“Delhi is out of emergency but not out of danger. In the coming days by November 16 and 17, the conditions are expected to get better. Unfortunately we are happy even though the air quality is very poor. In many countries there is an emergency-like condition at this air quality which we are cherishing as improvement,” Usman Naseem, researcher at Centre for Science and Environment and member Supreme Court-appointed Environment Pollution Control Authority (EPCA), told IANS.
Data from System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting And Research (SAFAR) said six out of 10 monitoring stations across Delhi-NCR fell out of “severe” zone to “very poor”. However, Lodhi Road in Central Delhi, Delhi University North Campus, Ayanagar in South Delhi and Pitampura in North Delhi continue to be ‘severe’.
The most polluted region according to CPCB in Delhi-NCR includes Ghaziabad where at 6 pm the AQI was 471, Anand Vihar with AQI 458, Noida sector 125 with AQI 464 -- all considered ‘severe’.
The India Meteorological Department (IMD) said the wind speed so far towards Delhi was 5 to 7 kmph coming from eastward, however the wind speed had suddenly increased to 10 to 15 kmph from north-west which would help in dispersing the pollutants hanging in the air.
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