- Survey respondents were from Delhi, Ghaziabad, Noida, Faridabad and Gurugra
- Graded Response Action Plan to tackle air pollution was formulated in 2016
- 79% Delhi-NCR residents want a ban on sale of any crackers this Diwali
New Delhi: Year after year, Delhi-NCR (National Captial Region) has been facing deteriorating air quality. Winters, especially are the toughest as thick smog engulfs the sky and residents wake up every morning heaving, coughing and sneezing. According to the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), in the first two weeks of October, Delhi’s air quality index was worse than in the same period in 2018 and 2019. With the air quality on the decline, stricter pollution control measures under the Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP) came into effect from October 15 in Delhi-NCR. However, according to a survey done by LocalCircles, a community social media platform, covering over 20,000 respondents from across Delhi, Gurugram, Noida, Faridabad and Ghaziabad finds, over 75 per cent of those surveyed believe that the GRAP has not been implemented effectively in their area of residence and 79 per cent are in the favour of banning the sale of firecrackers this festive season.
GRAP is required to be implemented when the Air Quality Index (AQI) declines to Moderate, Poor, Very Poor, Severe, Severe+ and Emergency categories. GRAP measures include a ban on diesel generator sets unless for emergency and essential services, patrolling by 50 teams of CPCB to keep in check dust emissions and waste burning, mechanised sweeping and frequent sprinkling of water on roads.
The aim of the survey was to understand how the anti-air pollution plan, GRAP, the formulation of which was ordered by the Supreme Court is being implemented in the capital and cities around it. GRAP was notified by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) in 2017.
Only 20 to 25 per cent respondents said that the pollution authorities are taking actions to stop dust pollution at construction and demolition sites and ready-mix concrete plants, check garbage burning in landfills and other places, and ban diesel generators, besides ensuring mechanised and periodic sweeping and water sprinkling on roads.
On the other hand, 29 per cent of citizens 5,205 in Delhi, 33 per cent of 1,362 in Noida, 37 per cent of 1,353 in Gurugram, 40 per cent of 1,010 citizens in Faridabad and 67 per cent of 1,496 respondents in Ghaziabad, said that none of the GRAP measures are being followed in their areas.
While commenting on the findings of the survey, air pollution activist Ravina Raj Kohli said that, in order to fight the problem of air pollution in the country, GRAP is not enough and there is an urgent need to a Clean Air Act that puts public health at the centre of its existence and a Clean Air Boss- a designated individual whose only focus will be Clean Air. She said,
GRAP is a flawed and unenforceable response to a very serious public health hazard. Proper enforcement of air pollution controls is impossible without accountability and political will. We need a Clean Air Boss. Not sparring politicians.
Atul Goyal, President, United Residents Joint Action (URJA)– an organisation of the Resident welfare associations highlighted that the agencies marked with the task to perform under the GRAP have not worked out their respective local area planning and working at ward level so far. He said,
The GRAP implementers do undertake measures here and there to suffice the judicial orders. However, covering the whole city may be challenging for them due to various reasons like lack of resources and the public participation. The GRAP needs to involve community leaders and RWAs for better implementation of the measures. Piecemeal approach will not bring any lasting results.
Majority Of Respondents Want A Ban On Firecrackers
The survey also tried to understand public perception on the firecracker ban during Diwali by the National Green Tribunal (NGT) and the government. The question was: “Given that many areas of Delhi-NCR are already in the hazardous air quality category, or beyond, what should be done with the sale of crackers?” To this, more than half the residents in Gurugram, Delhi and Faridabad voted for a “complete ban on sale of all crackers this festive season”. 79 per cent Delhi-NCR residents want the sale of regular crackers banned this Diwali. 32 per cent of them, however, support the sale of green crackers. 47 per cent residents want a complete ban on the sale of all crackers. 20 per cent want the sale of all crackers to be permitted, while 1 per cent do not have an opinion.
To bring the irregularities in the implementation of GRAP to the notice of Environment Pollution Prevention and Control Authority for the National Capital Region (EPCA), Sachin Taparia, founder of LocalCircles has written a letter to Dr. Bhure Lal, Chairman, EPCA requesting him to address the problem of pollution and increase the enforcement levels of GRAP.
In a survey conducted by the organisation last week, 65 per cent of the 15,500 respondents residing in Delhi-NCR said that they have at least one member of the family struggling with pollution related ailments. According to the State of Global Air 2020, air pollution is the highest risk factor for public health because of the huge burden of premature deaths it contributes to. Medical experts have warned that the rising air pollution may lead to a further increase in COVID-19 infections as the smog may cause the coronavirus to linger in the air for long.
NDTV – Dettol Banega Swasth India campaign is an extension of the five-year-old Banega Swachh India initiative helmed by Campaign Ambassador Amitabh Bachchan. It aims to spread awareness about critical health issues facing the country. In wake of the current COVID-19 pandemic, the need for WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) is reaffirmed as handwashing is one of the ways to prevent Coronavirus infection and other diseases. The campaign highlights the importance of nutrition and healthcare for women and children to prevent maternal and child mortality, fight malnutrition, stunting, wasting, anaemia and disease prevention through vaccines. Importance of programmes like Public Distribution System (PDS), Mid-day Meal Scheme, POSHAN Abhiyan and the role of Aganwadis and ASHA workers are also covered. Only a Swachh or clean India where toilets are used and open defecation free (ODF) status achieved as part of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014, can eradicate diseases like diahorrea and become a Swasth or healthy India. The campaign will continue to cover issues like air pollution, waste management, plastic ban, manual scavenging and sanitation workers and menstrual hygiene.