Winter is over in North India and Delhi’s pollution levels have dropped. With the Air Quality Index (AQI) hovering largely in the “moderate” zone, as opposed to “very poor” and “severe” in winter months, this is usually the time when authorities in the Capital forget about pollution, only to be rudely woken when a sudden spike around Diwali plunges Delhi into another public health emergency.
This year, for the first time, the Capital’s pollution monitoring and controlling agencies are preparing a hotspot-based action plan to tackle bad air even during summer months. This, they say, will help them prepare better for next winter.
According to senior government officials, the Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC) has identified at least 12 areas — Anand Vihar, Okhla Phase 2, Mundka, Dwarka Sector 8, Bawana, RK Puram, Rohini Sector 16, Narela, Jahangirpuri, Vivek Vihar, Wazirpur and Ashok Vihar — where pollution levels have been found to remain at least two to three times above the permissible limits on most days of the year, including in the summer.
The body, which is the city’s pollution control agency under the Delhi government, has decided that the bi-weekly action plans, which will be routinely submitted by Indian Institute of Technology-Delhi researchers from April, will be enforced in these hotspots to improve air quality during the summer.
In addition, measures listed under the Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP) for “moderate” and “poor” AQI levels will also be enforced by the civic bodies and the revenue department, said the officials cited above.
“Even though some GRAP measures are to be implemented throughout the year, the actions become more visible during the winter when pollution peaks. But this time, we are developing a hotspot-based approach to fight pollution levels during the summer too,” said a senior official from the Delhi environment department who asked not to be named.
Even in the summer, Delhi hardly gets any “good” days (when the reading on the 0-500 AQI index is below 50).
“We plan to enforce the bi-weekly action plans, which are being developed by IIT Delhi in these hotspots starting this summer. For this, nodal officers in civic bodies and revenue department would be appointed who would implement the plans,” said a CPCB official on condition of anonymity.
CPCB teams, which have been flagging violations during the winter, have found that construction activities, garbage burning, and road dust are some of the major polluters during the summer, apart from vehicular and industrial pollution. These inputs will be considered when the plans are being prepared.
“High-resolution data gathered by scientists from the ministry of earth sciences on major sources of pollution such as industries, vehicles and landfill fires are being used to prepare the bi-weekly plans. But we have requested for more comprehensive data on at least two sources — construction dust and road dust,” said Mukhesh Khare, professor of civil engineering department from IIT-Delhi, who is preparing the bi-weekly plans.
CPCB has also asked The Energy Resources Institute (Teri) to prepare a more comprehensive inventory on these two sources – construction dust and road dust.
The bi-weekly plans, which will suggest pre-emptive measures, will not just forecast pollution levels over the next fortnight but also tell which areas encounter higher spikes, what sources need to be controlled during that period, and the measures that should be enforced.
“Delhi’s pollution depends on ground-level activities and meteorology. If we can control the pollution arising out of our ground level activities then we can further improve the air quality. But this has to be a round-the-year activity and not just a winter activity,” said D Saha, former head of the CPCB’s air quality laboratory.