Observing that air quality in the capital and the NCR is deteriorating, the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) on Wednesday directed pollution watchdogs of Delhi and three other states to ensure strict compliance of the ban on sale and use of firecrackers during Christmas and New Year.
In an order, CPCB Chairman Shiv Das Meena also directed the Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC) and the pollution control boards of Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan to ensure that stone crushers and hot mix plants remain closed till January 2, 2021.
"Considering likely increase in activities during Christmas and New Year celebrations, pollution control boards of Delhi, Haryana, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh must ensure that hot mix plants and stone crushers remain closed all the time till January 2, 2021.
"The agencies must ensure that frequency of mechanised cleaning of roads and water sprinkling is increased particularly on the road stretches with high dust generation potential. Agencies must ensure compliance of orders of courts and the National Green Tribunal regarding banning of sale and use of firecrackers. The orders shall come into force with immediate effect," the CPCB chairman said.
The top pollution watchdog also called for strict adherence to guidelines and standard operating procedure for dust mitigation at construction sites.
"In case of violations, strict action should be taken against the violators like imposition of penalty/temporary stoppage of construction activities," it said.
The CPCB said that it has been reviewing air quality and meteorological scenario in Delhi-NCR on a continuous basis.
It observed that PM 2.5 concentration in Delhi-NCR exceeded 250 ug/m3 (micrograms per cubic metre) on December 22, and it exceeded 300 ug/m3 on December 23 and is persisting in the same category for more than 10 hours.
"Currently the AQI is in severe category," it said.
The order has been copied to the chairman of DPCC, UPPCB, Haryana State Pollution Control Board, Rajasthan State Pollution Control Board, Commission on Air Quality Management in NCR and Adjoining Areas chairperson M M Kutty and Environment Secretary R P Gupta.
The Commission on Air Quality Management in NCR and Adjoining Areas, in its meeting held on November 10, had decided that in view of deteriorating air quality in NCR region, there is a need to invoke the graded response action plan (GRAP).
The environment ministry notified the GRAP in December 2016 and enlisted actions as per different AQI categories namely ''moderate'', ''poor'', ''very poor'' and ''severe'' according to the National Air Quality Index and a new category named ''severe+'' or ''emergency''.
As per a direction of the Nation Green Tribunal issued on October 15, 2019, all brick kilns in the National Capital Region are closed.
The NGT had earlier this month directed that there would be a total ban on the sale and use of all kinds of firecrackers during the COVID-19 pandemic in the NCR and all cities/towns in the country where the ambient air quality falls under the ''poor'' and above category.
The NGT had allowed only places where air quality index is ''moderate'' or below to use green crackers from 11:55 pm to 12:30 am during Christmas and New Year celebrations.
It had also directed all district magistrates to ensure that banned firecrackers are not sold and asked them to recover compensation from violators.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)