New Delhi: To combat ongoing air pollution crisis in the Delhi National Capital Region (NCR) and find adequate long term solutions, a 12-point draft action plan has been formulated by a High Level Task Force that has been set up by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led central government. The task force is being headed by the principal secretary to Prime Minister Narendra Modi – Nripendra Misra and is called ‘Air Action Plan – Abatement of Air Pollution in the Delhi NCR’. For now, the draft has been put up on the Environment Ministry’s website and lists down key actions that the task force will monitor. The draft states, “It is recognised that the agencies responsible for the various determinants of air quality will take a number of other steps based on their assessment of need. Secretary Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF) will be responsible for overall coordination of the action agenda.”
The draft also calls for suggestions from experts and citizens within 15 days in order to make the action plan more effective and practical. Here are the 12 pointers drafted by the High Level Task Force to tackle the air pollution emergency in the national capital:
1. Crop Stubble Burning, Monitoring and Interstate Coordination: The draft proposes coordinated action should be taken by the team to combat stubble burning in neighboring states like Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh. It also states that the team will monitor enforcement measures to reduce stubble burning taken by the states. In collaboration with Secretary (DARE), Secretary (Agriculture) and Secretary (RD), the team will implement roll out of the agreed plan for managing crop stubble.
In collaboration with Department of Science & Technology – the team has to ensure that independent data on crop stubble burning is available in real time.
2. Pollution Monitoring And Source Attribution: The draft states that in collaboration with the Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC), the team is expected to ensure that the Delhi-NCR has an adequate network of air quality monitoring stations. Apart from this, the task force is expected to commission and validate source attribution studies for the NCR (annually). Moreover, the team needs to set up an anti-pollution helpline in the NCR districts to register complaints of specific violations and pollution app should also be prepared wherein citizens can take a picture of the violation and upload it for quick remedial action.
3. Reducing Pollution From Power Plants And Other Polluting Industries: For power plants in the NCR region, it calls for nitrogen oxides curtailment measures in a time-bound manner by the NTPC and other operators. The action plan also asks the Environment Ministry to develop a ‘Dashboard’ of all the ‘Red Category’ polluting units in the NCR. It also states that each of these units should install a certified pollution meter within their premises.
The draft calls for strict actions to be taken regarding brick kilns operating in the NCR, especially in areas like Bagpat (UP), Jhajjar (Haryana) without environmental clearance.
State and Municipal actions required to reduce air pollution
4. Solid Waste Management: The action plan asked the Municipal Corporation of Delhi to increase decentralised processing of bio-degradable waste, to fill the gap between waste collected and processed. It also states that the Delhi Development Authority should provide full support to this exercise.
It also states that an independent verification mechanism should be set up by the task force to check whether 100% solid waste is actually being collected or not – with specific focus on poor communities such as slums and JJ clusters.
5. Managing and Remediating Sanitary Landfills: The task force will monitor the steps taken to ensure that there are no fires at sanitary landfills. It also states that the Municipal Bodies must access special expertise to douse landfill fires and remediation measures for all three sanitary landfill sites in the city should be initiated within 6 months. The task force shall be answerable for all the actions taken by the local civic bodies.
6. Construction and Demolition (C&D) Waste: The draft states that the large construction agencies like National Buildings Construction Corporation Limited (NBCC) and Central Public Works Department (CPWD) that are working in the National Capital Region should set up their own facilities for processing Construction and Demolition waste and reuse the products in their own projects.
7. Mechanised Road Sweeping And Managing Road Dust: Noting that mechanised road sweeping is about 15 per cent in Delhi, the draft plan states that it should be increased to at least 40 per cent in the next four months.
It has also asked the Delhi PWD, the Irrigation Department and the MCDs to take up green paving of central verges, roadside berms, sides of drains, over the next one year with monitorable targets.
8. Improving Public Transport: The draft also asks for procurement of additional buses and improvement of last mile connectivity while increasing the number of metro coaches.
“Ensure that non-destined trucks do not enter Delhi. Ensure compliance of the toll and municipal charges for entering of trucks in Delhi,” the draft highlighted.
9. Solid Waste Management In Other NCR Cities: The respective Divisional Commissioners will assess the management of Municipal solid waste in their jurisdictions, and, within 15 days, prepare a plan to ensure 100% collection and processing. The plan must have monitorable timelines and an independent verification mechanism. The draft has also asked the corporations in Delhi to reduce dust and ensure that Standard operational practices are followed at construction sites in terms of curtaining and sprinkling water among other measures.
10. Completion of Eastern and Western Peripheral Expressways: The draft has asked the team to monitor and ensure work for the expressways are completed within target dates.
11. Encouraging Electric Vehicles And Promoting Shared And Connected Mobility: The draft highlights that the team will be responsible for making a policy that support and encourage Electric Vehicles and prioritise the use of EVs for public transport and promote shared and connected mobility in the city.
12. Reducing Congestion: The draft asks to collaborate with the traffic police, identify choke points and take up projects to reduce congestion at these points.
Earlier in November, the levels of the deadliest, tiny particulate matter known as PM 2.5, which lodge deep in a person’s lungs, shot upto 726, according to a U.S. embassy monitor. The levels were roughly 10 times the reading in Beijing, a city globally infamous for its air pollution. As a result, a national emergency was declared in the city. From closing down schools for three days to banning the construction activities and entry of heavy vehicles like trucks in the capital, many emergency steps were taken immediately. The government also announced the return of the odd-even road rationing scheme, version 3.0.
But, the problem is these all are just the temporary measures which are often taken after situation reaches an ‘emergency’ level under the Graded Plan of Action. The national capital region also had a grey Christmas on December 25, keeping air quality in the ‘very poor’ category. The Indian Meteorological Department predicts that the city will celebrate the similar New Year.
To overcome such a grim situation and combat this annual phenomenon, the government has now come up with this 12-point draft plan.