As the national capital region, engulfed in dust-filled air, struggles to breath, Lieutenant Governor Anil Baijal on Thursday ordered stoppage of all civil construction activities across Delhi and NCR till June 17 as a part of emergency measures. Owing to the dust cloud hanging over Delhi and parts of the National Capital Region (NCR) for the last few days, the air quality has fallen below "severe" level for the third straight day on Thursday. Authorities warned that dusty conditions were likely to prevail till Sunday and advised people to avoid staying outdoors for long hours.
Civic bodies, PWD and Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC) have been directed to impose penalties on all road construction agencies for violating laid down norms for dust control measures, according to the L-G office.
Baijal took to Twitter to inform that he has held an emergency meeting in view of the severe dust pollution in Delhi with Environment Minister Imran Hussain and the concerned officials. He said emergency measures like stoppage of all civil construction activities till June 17 have been taken and further monitoring would be done by agencies like NHAI, DMRC, MCDs, PWD and NBCC to ensure compliance.
Also, in a statement, the L-G office stated that the municipal corporations, Delhi Development Authority (DDA) and SDMs will strictly enforce prohibition on open burning of garbage, plastics and leaves in the national capital.
“Municipal Corporations and PWD will intensify mechanical road sweepings, sprinkling of non-potable water at central verges and roadsides and stop brooming activity on main roads," it stated.
The L-G said that a massive afforestation drive would be conducted across Delhi from July 15 to September 15.
"Massive afforestation drive from 15 July-15 September across Delhi will be undertaken. Residents' participation is welcome. Information about procurement of saplings, identified areas for plantation activities etc. can be obtained from Forest Deptt, GNCTD. Green Delhi our common goal," the L-G posted on Twitter.
The meeting was attended by minister Imran Hussain, Chief Secretary Anshu Prakash, EPCA Chairman Bhure Lal, senior government officers and the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) director general and EPCA member Sunita Narain.
Narain said that 'severe plus' category has been imposed for dust pollution under the Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP) with immediate effect till Sunday.
"That means shutting down of all civil construction activities till June 17.
"We have been told by the MeT Department that rain is likely to take place on Saturday, which will mitigate this bad weather situation, we have enforced it till Sunday," she told PTI.
The EPCA's action plan, termed GRAP, has formulated five categories. These are severe plus or emergency, severe, very poor, moderate to poor and moderate.
The EPCA, a Supreme Court-appointed watchdog, had yesterday issued an advisory to chief secretaries of states in Delhi-NCR asking them to take "urgent steps" for controlling dust pollution.
Narain said, in pursuant to the advisory, a meeting was taken up by the chief secretary in Haryana late last night and they have also decided to shut down construction activities for that period with immediate effect.
However, there was no confirmation from the Haryana government's side.
The air quality deteriorated because of dust storms in western India, particularly Rajasthan, which increased coarser particles in the air, the Central Pollution Control Board said.
PM10 level (presence of particles with diameter less than 10mm) was beyond severe at 796 in Delhi-NCR and 830 in Delhi, leading to hazy conditions.
According to the CPCB, the air quality index (AQI) -- a measurement of the concentration of toxic particulate matter in the air -- at several places in Delhi remained beyond the 500-mark, with East Delhi's Anand Vihar area recording a PM10 level of 929 and PM2.5 level of 301 this morning.
An AQI between 0-50 is considered "Good", 51-100 "Satisfactory", 101-200 "Moderate", 201-300 "Poor", 301-400 "Very Poor", and 401-500 "Severe.
(With PTI inputs)