New Delhi: A comprehensive action plan to combat pollution in the National Capital Region (NCR) centred on Delhi can never be fully implemented if the neighbouring states of Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh have no plans of their own to improve air quality, said a study released on Monday.
The Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP) approved by Supreme Court last year has clearly failed to make any difference to the severe pollution levels being witnessed in the national capital, the study said. GRAP, which requires action by 13 different agencies across the NCR states, is a “coordination nightmare," the study said.
In December 2016, SC approved GRAP to tackle air pollution in Delhi and adjoining regions. The plan’s main objective was to institutionalize measures to tackle air pollution emergencies in the city, giving a clear direction of the 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 analysis, which was carried out by Bengaluru-based independent researcher Aishwarya Sudhir, stressed that India’s air pollution crisis is a regional problem similar to that of China, but India has no regional-level action plans in place to address the issue.
It also pointed to the latest NASA images that shows a persistent spread of smog across the Indo-Gangetic Plain and highlighted that the air quality index for cities across northern India, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s constituency Varanasi, has been at the severe level for several weeks in a row now.
“It is important to note that each of the categories under GRAP requires cross boundary action with state governments across the region having their pollution control plans in place. This is not the case as of now," the study said.
Highlighting loopholes in GRAP, the study said that there was little or no evidence of a mitigation plan for addressing crop fires across the NCR states when the evidence is clearly attributing a 25% rise in the pollution levels to the phenomenon.
“Yet, there’s no mention of addressing these issues under the classified alert system given in GRAP," it added.
The analysis said the central government had enough time to implement GRAP and ensure inter-state coordination.
“GRAP was notified 10 months ago but the implementation happened only on the 18th of October; the sole purpose of having the GRAP is to ensure that action is taken at every level so that we don’t end up in an emergency situation and that has clearly not been the case," said Sudhir, who authored the study.
“The other important thing to understand is that implementing the action plan and addressing pollution at the source cannot be mutually exclusive. If crop fires and emissions from coal plants at a regional level are not under control, the action plan can never yield the desired results," she added.
Meanwhile, on collecting data to measure air quality, the study pointed out that unlike in Delhi, the air quality index in most cities is being generated by one or two monitoring stations, which makes the reliability of the data beyond the national capital highly questionable.