Experts moot GRAP as an answer to Delhi’s air problem

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Director-General CSE Sunita Narain and Executive Director CSE Anumita Roychowdhury

New Delhi (NVI): As India’s capital braces for likely deterioration of its air quality in the run-up to Diwali and winter, two noted environmental experts have argued that implementing Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP) at pollution hotspots in National Capital Region (NCR) may go a long way in defusing the problem.

The graded response action plan (GRAP), which came into effect from October 15, is the guiding principle for air pollution management for Delhi and NCR, pioneered by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) and was implemented by the Environmental Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority (EPCA).

Delhi has managed to bend the pollution curve “with over all particulate pollution down by 25 per cent” and “This has happened because of transition to clean fuel in the capital,” the Director-General of Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) Sunita Narain  and the Executive Director and Head of the air pollution and clean transportation programme at CSE Anumita Roychowdhury said in an interaction.

CSE conducted a granular analysis of the air quality data provided by the Central Pollution Control Board for the last 10 years.

“First of all three (thermal) power plants were shut equalling 1,245 megawatts of generating capacity. Dirty fuels like pet coke, furnace oil and coal were also banned. As a result, a massive transition to natural gas happened not only in the transportation sector but also in the industrial sector,” said Roychowdhury.

BSVI fuel has already arrived and has been scaled up in the city, she added.

Other measures for cleaner air include regulation of trucks entering the city, a ban on 10-year-old trucks and environmental cess on them. A cashless system tax collection using RFID (radio frequency identification) improved cess collection. There is also a reduction in the use of diesel generators, all these have helped immensely.

Roychowdhury cautioned that in order to meet clean air standards, pollution load will have to be reduced by another 65 per cent and that could bring in more disruptive measures.

“While pollution usually increases after mid-October, the sources of pollution remain the same,” Narain said adding, “There is little dispersion of pollutants as there is no wind.”

“Cold wind is coming into Delhi. No wind, no dispersion, that makes the same sources of pollution choke us,” said Narain.

“Local sources of pollution are the key reason why Delhi and its surrounding areas are seeing poor or very poor pollution levels,” she explained further.

Pollution from stubble burning in Punjab and Haryana contribute about 5-7 per cent to Delhi’s pollution load, but could go up if there is a wind blowing down from the north. But the main sources of pollution are still local, she said.

Roychowdhury said enforcement of the GRAP will be crucial for curbing pollution this winter.

Pollution hotspots in NCR will be a key focus this year. There are 14 such areas where pollution levels exceed the city average. These areas have high pollution because of the burning of municipal solid waste and industrial waste.

“The only way to reduce the remaining 65 per cent of the pollution is by ensuring that local sources of pollution are kept in check. For this local action plans will have to be implemented in these pollution hotspots which are enforceable,” said Narain.

–PS