Gensets banned as Delhi cracks down on alarming air pollution
New Delhi: All diesel generators, except those in hospitals and Metro stations, were on Tuesday banned in Delhi, the Badarpur thermal power plant was shut and Delhites were told to put on masks as air quality in the capital crossed the dangerous red level ahead of Diwali and winter.
The Environment Pollution Prevention and Control Authority (EPCA) said it had started implementing the "very poor" and "severe" categories of its Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP) -- which includes more strict measures -- to curb air pollution in Delhi and adjoining areas.
The environment body, formed by the central government following Supreme Court orders in 1998, announced the decision at a press conference and said the "very poor" and "severe" categories of the action plan would remain in force till March 15 next year.
"The Badarpur power plant will be closed. It will be shut down permanently in July 2018. The pollution control boards of Uttar Pradesh and Haryana have been directed to monitor pollution from the remaining thermal power plants - Dadri in Uttar Pradesh and Jhajjar in Haryana. This also includes the management of fly ash from the plants," an EPCA statement said.
The decision was taken after EPCA Chairman Bhure Lal and its member Sunita Narain, also the director general of the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), took a review of air quality in Delhi
"Difficult situations demand tough responses and solutions and the Delhi-NCR region is faced with a really difficult situation each winter when air pollution levels spiral out of control. The EPCA and all other agencies of the government are prepared to take those tough decisions which we believe will help clear the air," Lal said.
According to the Central Pollution Control Board, air quality index on Tuesday crossed the "very poor" 300 mark at a dozen places and was above the "severe" 400 level at two places in Delhi.
The "very poor" 300-400 level can cause respiratory illness on prolonged exposure and the 401-500 severe level can affect even healthy people and seriously impact those with existing diseases.
The worseing air quality in Delhi may also trigger an increase in car parking fee by up to four times across the city in the next few days. But a decision regarding that has not been taken as yet.
Narain said parking a parking policy was still being worked out and if air pollution worsens further and touches more alarming proportions, "cars will have to be off the roads".
The environment body has further advised the residents of Delhi-NCR to use face masks whenever possible. It has also raised concerns over the existing landfill sites in the capital.
Based on its assessment, EPCA said it had predicted that October 20, the day after Diwali, will be a very bad day for the residents of the capital in terms of air quality.
The wind, according to EPCA, would be south-easterly, which would add moisture to Delhi's air and thereby increase the concentration of pollutants by not letting them disperse.