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EPCA: Ban diesel vehicles during severe air quality
With the air quality index in Delhi-NCR “fluctuating” on Monday that saw a spike in pollution in the morning but abatement during the day, the Environment Pollution Control Authority (EPCA) has suggested ban the plying of diesel vehicles on the city roads and closure of thermal power when pollution breaches “emergency” levels in Delhi-NCR.
And as the City’s Air Quality Index (AQI) hovered around 468 (5 times higher than normal) on Monday, the Delhi Government moved the National Green Tribunal seeking modification of its November 11 order that refused to exempt women and two wheelers from the odd-even car rationing scheme to tackle pollution.
Also, the SC-appointed EPCA, in its submission to the apex court on Monday, emphasised on mandatory stickers on vehicles reflecting their emission level and age to help authorities to find out and prosecute polluting vehicles.
Meanwhile, smoggy conditions created problems for Delhittes on Monday as the visibility dipped in the morning. However, visibility improved as the day progressed. The visibility was recorded at 500 m at 5.30 am. It dropped to 400 m at 8.30 am, but improved to 1,400m at 2.30 pm.
Overall air quality deteriorated on Monday morning, with poor visibility leading to cancellation of eight trains. A dense cloud of highly toxic smog that was more than 10 times the recommended limit by the World Health Organization (WHO) enveloped the city as the officials of Central as well as the Delhi Governments struggled to tackle health crisis that is well into its second week.
The System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting And Research (SAFAR) said, “Delhi’s air “may see increase in pollution levels” due to meteorological factors and that a clearer picture would emerge after Tuesday, though the Weatherman has predicted light rains o Tuesday and Wednesday, which will help clear the smog.”
The levels of PM2.5 and PM10 continued to rise even as both Central and Delhi Governments claimed partial relief during the afternoon.
The average Air Quality Index (AQI) in Delhi on Monday at 4 pm was 463, with PM2.5 being measured at 460 units. For the entire Delhi-NCR, the average was 455 units, with PM2.5 at 452 units. The air quality improved on Friday and Saturday but deteriorated on Sunday. For the last six days, the air quality has remained in the “severe” zone across NCR, prompting doctors to warn people about ‘health emergency’.
In a related development the AAP Government filed an application before a Bench headed by NGT chairperson Justice Swatanter Kumar, seeking exemption of women drivers from the scheme, saying it may affect the safety and security of women.
The Delhi Government sought exemptions two wheelers and women for one year till the Government procured 2,000 buses for public transport to tackle lakh of commuters.
“The implementation of the scheme will cause great hardship to two-wheeler owners. This may affect the safety and security of women drivers also,” the petition, which is likely to be heard on Tuesday, stated.
“In case, the women drivers are not included in the exempted list, there may be a likelihood that such women passengers do not find themselves comfortable while travelling in heavily crowded public transport buses. The crowding in public transport buses may deter the women passengers in using the bus mode because of safety and security reasons and therefore, the purpose of the scheme will be defeated,” it said.
It may be noted that the NGT had on November 11 given a conditional permission to the AAP Government’s decision to implement the odd-even scheme for five days from November 13, ordering that no exemption should be allowed to “any person or officer and two-wheelers”.
However, the Arvind Kejriwal Government scrapped its plan to implement the odd-even vehicle rationing scheme it was slated to start from Monday, after NGT said there will be no exemption for women, two-wheelers and government servants.
The NGT had in its order said the odd-even scheme should be implemented “without any default” as and when PM (particulate matter) 10 level goes above 500 microgrammes per cubic metre and PM 2.5 level crosses the limit of 300 microgrammes per cubic metre during a span of 48 hours.
In another related development, Delhi Minister Gopal Rai said the AAP Government is in touch with environment scientists and continuously monitoring the alarming pollution level which has left people gasping for breath. “Movement of trucks and construction works are under scrutiny, water is being sprinkled, we are continuously monitoring the situation,” Rai told a Press conference, adding “there is a meeting with Pawan Hans officials to discuss the plan of aerial sprinkling of water”.
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