November 3 – November 3 – The region of the national capital (NCR) and much of the indogangetic plains were wrapped in a toxic fog since last week, a repetition of an annual pollution crisis that is becoming a Headache for manufacturers and administrations policy.
While the average annual air quality index readings have shown a slight decrease since 2017, it was 165 that year, 154 in 2018 and 135 in the months so far, the improvement seems to be largely due to weather conditions in the months Summer and winter Pollution has shown few changes.
Experts say this is significant because it suggests that the hectic efforts that were carried out in response to the pollution crisis in 2016 have had no impact and that the improvements have been mainly due to weather factors that are beyond human control.
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Perceptions of efforts that did not work, and some that did, in recent years can be summed up largely in the following action plans, experts and scientists told HT.
The gradual response action plan (Grap), the sets of curbs that should be automatically implemented when pollution levels cross certain thresholds, has not been effective due to a combination of factors. Experts have said that the plan is not preventive and that some additional measures, such as strengthening public transport infrastructure, should have been taken to be successful.
"The participation of the CPCB (Central Pollution Control Board) has not had an impact since the government did not increase parking fees, increased public transport, increased the frequency of the subway and did not verify the vehicle registration," Ritwick said. Dutta, an environmental lawyer based in Delhi. .
A former CPCB official said one of the problems is the lack of focus in the seasons when pollution is not an apparent problem. "This is mainly because the work to combat air pollution begins just when there is a peak instead of continuing throughout the year," said this former scientist, who asked not to be identified.
Fire crackers must go
This year's air quality crisis in the capital began after the Diwali celebrations on October 27, when people challenged restrictions on how long and what type of firecrackers could explode, which led to an almost immediate accumulation. of toxic air that persisted for most of the time. week. By midnight on Diwali night, the concentration of PM2.5 pollutants, the most harmful of all aerosols, calmed down almost 16 times.
"Our analysis clearly showed that the bursting of cookies on Sunday night had spirally increased the pollution curve to almost the same severe levels that were observed during the 2018 Diwali. This happened despite the fact that the 2019 Diwali it was warmer and windier than 2018. This temporarily undid comparatively better gains in air quality this season due to the favorable climate, the continuous action of pollution control and emergency preventive measures, "said Anumita Roy Chowdhury, of the Science and Environment Center.
A day after Diwali, there was an increase in patients who went to hospitals with respiratory problems. "We are increasingly seeing healthy people who have no history of chronic respiratory diseases with asthma-like symptoms. Many of these patients now have to use steroid inhalers for up to four weeks," said Dr. Karan Madan, associate professor of pulmonology. in All India Institute Medical Sciences (AIIMS).
In 2018, the Supreme Court ordered that only so-called green firecrackers, which are manufactured without certain chemicals and emit 30% less contaminants, should be used in the Delhi-NCR region, and firecrackers can only explode between the 8 p.m and 10 p.m. .
According to Dutta and Roychoudhury, the implementation of these curbs is difficult and the solution may be only in a total ban on the sale of firecrackers in the NCR area throughout the winter.
COMPLETE STOP IN AGRICULTURAL FIRE
According to the Air Pollution Monitoring System of the Ministry of Earth Sciences for air quality and weather forecasting and research (SAFAR), stubble burning contributes 8% to 50% to the load of air pollution between mid-October and mid-November. A day after Diwali, his contribution was 35% to air pollution in Delhi, the SAFAR website said.
On average, about 70-80 million tons of rice straw are burned each year in Punjab, Haryana and western Uttar Pradesh each year to clear the fields for winter harvest, according to an IIT study, Kanpur. "Emissions from burning stubble can certainly affect air quality in Delhi and other cities in the Ganges plain," said the study on air pollution sources published in 2016.
Although the National Green Court asked the governments of Punjab and Haryana to avoid stubble burning, data recorded by the NASA website showed Thursday that the number of fire incidents (mainly agricultural fires) until October 30, 2019 was greater than what was seen in 2018 and 2017.
NASA has recorded more than 52,352 fire incidents compared to 45,736 in 2018 and 52,136 in 2017 during the same period, according to information analyzed by HT.
Since 2017, the authorities have tried to convince and punish farmers to abandon the practice, but efforts do not reach the realities of the land, where it is still financially more viable for farmers to continue burning crop residues and pay the fine of Rs 2,500 Instead of spending more money on machinery you can avoid the need for it.
Farmers unions have said that government subsidies for machinery have been inadequate or have not reached farmers at all.
The Environmental Protection (Prevention and Control) Authority (EPCA) has identified 14 critical points of contamination in Delhi-NCR. These are areas where air pollution levels are higher and contribute greatly to the overall levels of pollution in the city.
Critical point management is consistent with global regulatory trends and is based on the principle that if cities are safe for the most vulnerable, it will be safe or all, said Roychoudhury, and explained that it was crucial to focus on the people affected in the Critical areas
In Delhi, effective management of critical points will require a collaborative effort between the Delhi government and the three municipal corporations. CSE estimates that the management of critical points can lead to a 65% reduction in local emissions, contributing around 70% to air pollution at the base in Delhi.
The 2015 IIT study that identified sources of pollution said that road dust was a prominent contributor to pollution. "The four main contributors to PM10 emissions are road dust (56%), concrete batch processing (10%), industrial point sources (10%) and vehicles (9%); these are based on annual emissions … The four main contributors PM2.5 emissions are road dust (38%), vehicles (20%), domestic fuel burning (12%) and industrial point sources (11%) " said the study.
The fight against dust sources can only reduce pollution in Delhi by a third, said Mukesh Sharma of IIT, Kanpur, who anchored the study.
The CPCB and the National Green Court (NGT), through several orders in the last three years, have focused on the landscaping of all roads to reduce dust recirculation.
In 2016, the CPCB issued comprehensive rules for dust management, including the construction and demolition sector, to state governments and asked them to establish an effective monitoring system in three years.
The EPCA report of October 18, 2019 said the rules had no impact as developers continue to operate without regard. Former CPCB member secretary AB Akolkar said that state governments have been slow to implement the guidelines, which were voluntary in nature. "Most pollution control boards do not have the labor force to implement the rules and municipal agencies have sufficient funds to implement the regulations," he said.
Dutta said that Delhi and other state governments in the RNC should provide specific funds for dust management. Roychoudhury added that Resident Welfare Associations should be part of the waste management and dust control measures to be effective.
Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, MC Mehta, in whose petition the CNG was introduced in Delhi in 2000, said reducing air pollution in Delhi would be a difficult task unless the authorities are responsible for not implementing the instructions of the Courts and guard dogs of pollution.
The Delhi government agreed to introduce environmentally friendly compressed natural gas for public transportation only when the Supreme Court summoned the chief secretary of Delhi and threatened to send him to jail for failing to implement his orders, Mehta said.
"The SC had shown the way, but there is no political will to follow that path," he added.
"The leaders blame each other for the high air pollution in Delhi as people suffer. Unfortunately, all the benefits of the introduction of CNG have been lost and we return to the dark days of the 1990s, when Delhi used to smoke with toxic air ".
Vijay Panjwani, who has been CPCB's lawyer, said: "There has been much talk about how to control air pollution in recent years, but there has been very little real action. The reason is that the actual action will result in inconvenience to some people that political parties are not willing to risk. Therefore, we need a law that stipulates implementation with punitive deadlines and actions against officials and people for not implementing the law, "he said.
(With contributions from Vijdhan Mohammad Kawoosa in New Delhi, HTC in Chandigarh)