New Delhi: Concerned over high air pollution levels in Delhi-NCR, Centre today empowered the Supreme Court- mandated Environment Pollution Control and Prevention Authority (EPCA) to enforce the Graded Response Action Plan under which odd-even scheme and halt on construction activities may be imposed across the region if air quality remains at the 'emergency' level for 48-hours.
The ambitious plan, first of its kind in the country, also envisages the roll out of a host of other emergency measures including closure of schools, power plants and advisories asking people to avoid polluted areas and restrict outdoor movement.
Terming air pollution in Delhi and NCR as a "matter of serious concern", which requires "urgent action", the Environment Ministry in its notification assigned the task to implement the plan to EPCA under the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986.
Sunita Narain, who is the Director General of Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) and also a member of EPCA, termed it as a "very big step" in pollution management and said there was no need to balk at the level of action the plan lays out.
The action plan prepared by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), that had received the nod of SC on December 2 last year, details measures to be enforced based on the intensity of pollution -- ranging from 'severe plus' or emergency to moderate-poor.
Severe plus or emergency level, as the plan describes, is when PM2.5 levels cross 300 g/m or PM 10 levels cross 500 g/m3 (5 times above the standard) and persist for 48 hours or more.
In such a situation, apart from odd-even and ban on construction activities, entry of trucks into Delhi (except essential commodities) would be stopped while a task force will take decision on any additional steps including shutting of schools.
The controversial odd-even plan was twice implemented by the AAP government in the national capital -- in January and April last year. Its efficacy has been a matter of debate among experts while it had also generated a lot of political heat.