Delhi pollution: EPCA suggests diesel vehicle ban to control smog
New Delhi: The Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority, or EPCA, has suggested a ban on diesel vehicles and closure of all coal-based power plants and industries in the National Capital Region (NCR) centred on Delhi when the air quality turns toxic.
EPCA also said it had no advance warning of the ‘unprecedented’ adverse weather conditions in the national capital last week that resulted in air pollutions levels touching ‘severe’ and ‘emergency’ levels in the Delhi-NCR region. It called for “better weather forecasts”.
Crop burning in northern states is often cited as one of the biggest reasons behind high levels of air pollution in the city. The Delhi government was set to introduce an ‘odd-even’ road rationing scheme from 13 November, but shelved the plan after the National Green Tribunal (NGT) ruled against the several exemptions provided in the scheme.
In December 2016, the Supreme Court had approved a graded response action plan (GRAP) to tackle air pollution in Delhi and adjoining cities. The plan’s main objective was to institutionalize measures to tackle air pollution emergencies in the city, giving a clear direction about steps to be taken by central and state authorities at each level of air quality. GRAP, which was notified by the union environment ministry in January 2017, classifies air pollution into four categories of air quality—moderate to poor, very poor, severe, very severe or emergency.
The suggestions by EPCA, which is tasked with implementation of the comprehensive pollution-tackling plan in the Delhi-NCR, were made in its latest submissions on Monday to the Supreme Court on GRAP’s implementation and learning from first smog emergency of 2017.
In its report to SC, EPCA said, “the fact is that while crop burning from Punjab and Haryana is a contributory factor it is not the only problem during winter in this region.” “Last year adverse weather and lack of long-term action resulted in similar smog episodes during December and January. So, there may be a need for additional emergency measures like closure of all coal based thermal plants and industries in the region,” said EPCA, in its report to SC.
It noted that currently SC had imposed a ban on pet coke and furnace oil, but there may be a requirement to temporarily halt all other air pollution sources during peak smog periods.
It also sought a “ban on all diesel vehicles on roads/and or stickers of fuel and age on all vehicles through PUC (pollution under control) certificates so that based on level of threat, categories of vehicles can be prohibited from plying.”
EPCA, however, clarified that it will discuss these measures with the union ministry of environment, forest and climate change (MoEF&CC) and the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) task force next week and inform SC of any directions required.
It also called for “better weather forecasts so that agencies have advance notice of the measures that need to be taken”.
“This year, the last information EPCA had on the prevailing weather conditions was on 6 November 2017. This did not provide any warning of the kind of anti-cyclonic weather disturbance that was happening in the upper circulatory system and the impending problems it would bring. EPCA is now given to understand from weather experts, including IMD, that the situation of the past few days was unprecedented,” said EPCA’s report to the apex court.
“...across the world, where such smog alert systems are in place, a robust and reliable weather forecasting system is essential for action. EPCA is now working with the ministry of earth science and IMD to see how this forecast and predictions can be improved,” it added.
EPCA also said that there is a need for a vastly strengthened system of health advisories and their wide dissemination to people to take preventive action.