NEW DELHI: With no let up in the air pollution levels in the capital and particulate matter 2.5 still extremely high, the Centre is keeping a close watch on Delhi’s air quality and preparing to undertake a round of measures in Delhi and its vicinity immediately.
Top sources have told ET that the Central Pollution Control Board will ask the Delhi government to ensure “total prohibition” on burning of all garbage in the city and to ensure that dust emissions from construction sites are contained. These two have been identified as immediate and high priority actions imperative to stop Delhi’s air quality from dipping further.
It has been suggested that flying squads be brought in at zonal level in Delhi to immediately act on any complaint of garbage burning. “These two steps are very crucial at the moment to ensure air quality in the city does not deteriorate and that visibility improves. There has to be complete prohibition on garbage burning,” officials from the environment ministry told ET.
It is also learnt that the Centre is working on a pollution alert system of the kind employed across several other nations to advise the general public to avoid certain critically polluted areas at particular timings.
“The concept of alerts is used in some countries and the CPCB is looking at this mechanism closely but without use of sirens etc. We have been trying to formulate a specific alert system for our cities but we also do not wish to create unnecessary panic. We have to be careful about the message being sent to people and we are accordingly we are working on the right format for the alert system and are in talks with the health ministry as well to formulate it,” a senior official well versed with the alert plans told ET on condition of anonymity.
On the issue of urban waste burning contributing to air pollution, the environment ministry has only this week shot off a communication to Delhi government and adjoining states to ensure zero tolerance for burning of urban waste- one of the key factors that is leading to poor air quality in Delhi besides vehicular pollution.
“I have written only two days back to chief secretaries of Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and National Capital Territory of Delhi urging them to take effective steps to enforce the ban on burning of all types of waste in urban areas and immediately respond to all such complaints,” Ashok Lavasa, secretary environment & forests told ET.
The secretary in his letter to state chief secretaries has noted that “burning of urban waste is one of the factors that seems to be contributing to poor air quality in and around Delhi” and he has directed that an emergency response mechanism be set up to respond to calls received from citizens on burning of garbage. The secretary has also requested the three chief secretaries to make urban local bodies and other regulatory agencies specifically responsible to ensure that burning of waste is not resorted to.
CPCB officials pointed out that the poor air quality and poor visibility problem is also being seen in interior villages outside of Delhi as well where there is little vehicular pollution as fossil fuels and other inappropriate fuels are being used, generating smoke and affecting visibility. The environment ministry has this year held three meetings with the environment ministers of Rajasthan, Haryana, Delhi, Uttar Pradesh and with the concerned senior officers of the states on the issue of the deteriorating air quality of Delhi.
“A very close watch is being kept on whatever is contributing to poor air quality and how it can be checked. Stubble burning from Punjab alone is down by 40% this year. The number of non-destined vehicles entering Delhi has also come down significantly,” said an official closely monitoring Delhi’s air quality.