Sunday, Jul 03, 2022

Delhi Air Pollution Measures: Schools Shut, Ban On Industrial Activities, Work From Home For 50% Staff

Delhi recorded its air quality index at 389 at 9 am on Wednesday after slipping into the severe zone on Tuesday when AQI was recorded at 403 at 4 pm.

Delhi air pollution crisis PTI | File Photo

The alarming levels of pollution in Delhi in the aftermath of Diwali and unabated crop-burning has left the city choking with authorities scrambling to bring matters under control. With the capital's AQI not showing any signs of improving anytime before Sunday, several restrictions and guidelines have been issued by the government as well as the Supreme Court, which spoke on the matter on Wednesday. 

The apex court was hearing a plea filed by environmental activist Aditya Dubey and law student Aman Banka, who sought directions to provide stubble-removing machines to small and marginal farmers for free.

Coming down on those who sit in "5 stars" and complain about stubble burning and pollution, the court said that it does not want to punish farmers for burning stubble. Addressing the blame -game between the Centre and Delhi government over the issue of pollution, Chief Justice of India MV Ramana observed that debates about air quality on TV channels were causing "more pollution than any other sources. 

According to the Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP), air quality is considered to be in the 'emergency' category if the PM2.5 and PM10 levels continue to be above 300 micrograms per cubic metre and 500 micrograms per cubic metre respectively for 48 hours or more.

The city recorded its air quality index at 389 at 9 am. It had slipped into the severe zone on Tuesday and was recorded at 403 at 4 pm.

In light of the alarming conditions, what are the steps being taken to counter the pollution problem?

Promoting Public Transport

The Arvind Kejriwal government has taken several steps to control the toxic air of Delhi. 

It is hiring around 1,000 private buses and has sought the DDMA's permission for standing passengers in Metro trains and buses in the city.

At present, buses and Metro trains in Delhi are permitted to ply with 100 per cent seating capacity, but no standing passengers are allowed, a restriction imposed by the Delhi Disaster Management Authority (DDMA) due to COVID-19.

The transport department has sought permission from the DDMA to allow standing passengers in buses. 

Delhi Transport Minister Kailash Gahlot took to Twitter to request people in the national capital to avail public transport as he announced the hiring of 1,000 private buses for a month. Car-polling is also being promoted.

A decision on the odd-even scheme is yet to be made. The odd-even scheme is a vehicle rationing scheme under which odd and even numbered vehicles ply on alternate days. Vehicles with registration numbers ending in odd numbers are allowed on the roads on odd days and even-numbered vehicles are allowed on even days.

Schools To Remain Closed

By order of the Commission for Air Quality Management (CAQM) late Tuesday night, schools, colleges and educational institutions in the National Capital Region will remain closed until further orders, allowing only online mode of education.

Work From Home For 50 Per Cent Staff

NCR state governments have been directed to allow work from home (WFH) for at least 50 percent of their staff in offices in NCR till Sunday and encourage private establishments to follow suit.

Curbs on Industrial Activity 

11 thermal power plants located within 300 km radius of Delhi -- NTPC, Jhajjar; Mahatma Gandhi TPS, CLP Jhajjar; Panipat TPS, HPGCL; Nabha Power Ltd. TPS, Rajpura and Talwandi Sabo TPS, Mansa -- will remain operational till November 30.

The CAQM has directed Delhi and the NCR states to stop construction and demolition activities in the region till November 21, barring railway services/railway stations, metro rail corporation services, including stations, airports and inter-state bus terminals (ISBTS) and national security/defence-related activities/ projects of national importance subject to strict compliance of the C&D Waste Management Rules and dust control norms.

Trucks carrying non-essential items have been banned from entering Delhi till Sunday.

"All industries in NCR still using unapproved fuels shall be closed by respective governments with immediate effect... NCR States and GNCTD shall enforce a strict ban on use of DG sets, except for emergency services,” the panel said.

Centre Suggests Measures

The Centre on Wednesday proposed a slew of measures in the Supreme Court including a ban on entry of all trucks in the national capital except vehicles carrying essential goods, shutting of schools and 50 per cent attendance in offices of GNCTD to reduce air pollution in Delhi-NCR.

Taking note of the Centre's submissions, the Supreme Court directed Delhi and NCR states to comply with these decisions which were taken at Tuesday's meeting to curb air pollution.

(With PTI inputs)