Diesel generators used for power backup are banned in the National Capital Region
- A graded response plan has kicked in from Tuesday over air pollution
- Coal-fired Badarpur power station in south Delhi has been shut
- Delhi may be told to switch to Odd Even formula if air quality plunges
As Delhi's air quality plunges
ahead of Diwali, a graded response plan kicked in on Tuesday that lets authorities respond to a spike in toxic air with restrictions. As the first step, the powerful Supreme Court-appointed pollution watchdog ordered the coal-fired Badarpur power station in south Delhi
to be shut and banned diesel-based power generating sets. It was the concern over Delhi's air that prompted the Supreme Court to temporarily ban on firecrackers for Diwali
that have sent pollution levels rocketing in previous years.
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The centre had last year accepted the court recommendation for a graded plan to be executed between 15 October and 15 March to ensure Delhi residents do not choke on the air. In October last year, density of particulate matter in the air shot up to 14 to 16 times the safe levels.
Under the Graded Response Action Plan, the pollution watchdog has the powers to order municipal bodies to charge four times standard parking tariff to discourage car owners from using their vehicles.
The pollution watchdog called Environment Protection (Prevention and Control) Authority, or EPCA, will also order the capital to switch to the Odd Even Car formula if the air quality deteriorates. Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal had experimented with this scheme earlier.
The court and government has given this body has complete powers to take all decisions on checking pollution and it could, if things go really bad, even order cars to go off the roads and shut schools. But the idea of having the plan, EPCA said, was to ensure that things do not reach this extreme stage.
The EPCA will get the pollution data from 30 networked pollution monitoring centres. "Which means we have reached a point in Delhi that action is not only taken at a region level but you can tell where in Delhi, pollution level is very high," said Sunita Narain, an environmentalist who is a member of the EPCA.
Similar monitoring stations are also coming up in Delhi's neighbourhood, 16 in Haryana, 12 in Uttar Pradesh and 2 in Rajasthan.
The EPCA shall monitor the concentration of PM 2.5 and PM 10 in the air, the particulate matter that enters the body and can reside in the lungs and aggravate respiratory conditions.
PM 2.5 is particulate matter 2.5 micrometres or less in diameter and is considered the more dangerous of the two, because of its smaller size.
The court-mandated body, however, recognises that it isn't going to be easy to implement all its recommendations. For instance, it wants the government to shut down polluting brick kilns around Delhi, increase frequency of bus, metro services and increase the frequency of mechanised cleaning of road and sprinkling of roads.
India and China together account for more than half of the 4.2 million deaths attributable to air pollution worldwide in 2015, a study by the U.S.-based Health Effects Institute showed.