The chairman of the Environment Pollution Control Authority (EPCA) on Tuesday said the use of private vehicles could be stopped in Delhi if air pollution gets worse. Bhure Lal’s comments came after Delhi’s air quality turned 'severe' on Tuesday for the first time this season.
The overall Air Quality Index (AQI) was 401, falling in the 'severe' category, according to the Central Pollution Control Board. Stubble burning in neighbouring states is said to be the main reason behind the condition.
"Let us hope the air pollution situation in Delhi doesn't deteriorate but if it turns out to be an emergency, we will have to stop the use of private transport," said Bhure Lal told news agency Reuters, adding that there is a committee which would advise him on the matter.
Earlier in the day, the EPCA banned construction activities along with halting operations of industries using coal and biomass as fuel between November 1 and 10, and are considering regulating use of private vehicles. The Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC) issued the directions, which also included intensifying patrolling in 'hot spots' with "no tolerance for visibly polluting vehicles", to government agencies following the orders from the Supreme Court-appointed EPCA.
The Centre-run System of Air Quality Forecasting And Research (SAFAR) recorded the AQI at 410. An AQI between 0 and 50 is considered 'good', 51 and 100 'satisfactory', 101 and 200 'moderate', 201 and 300 'poor', 301 and 400 'very poor', and 401 and 500 'severe'.
There are a total of 35 lakh private vehicles in the Delhi-NCR region. In 2016, the odd-even scheme was enforced twice - January 1-15 and April 15-30 in the city when vehicles having odd and even numbers were allowed to ply on alternate days.
The EPCA has also asked DPCC to publish in newspapers advisory for public, recommending them to reduce outdoor activities and minimise their travel using private vehicles as much as possible, the official said.
Why it’s a matter of ‘severe’ concern?
# According to data by the CPCB, 18 areas in the national capital recorded 'severe' air quality with the highest AQI at 4 PM recorded at Anand Vihar at 467.
# Faridabad, Ghaziabad, Gurgaon and Noida recorded 'severe' air pollution, crossing the AQI of 400.
# Greater Noida's air is also on the brink of turning severe, according to the data.
# SAFAR attributed the spike to "heavy stubble burning in the last 24 hours and calm winds".
# The Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology (IITM) also spotted a large number of biomass fire spots through satellite imageries in neighbouring states of Delhi.
# The leading factor causing severe pollution levels also include moisture and heavy air. "The increase in surface wind speed can only prevent AQI to cross severe zone," the official said. D Saha, former additional director and head of air quality management division in CPCB, said entire northern India coupled with the Indo-Gangetic plains are under the grip of 'severe' to 'very poor' air quality.
On Monday, the Supreme Court prohibited the plying of 15-year-old petrol and 10-year-old diesel vehicles in the national capital and also made it clear that such vehicles would be impounded if found on the roads in Delhi-NCR.
Terming as "very critical" and "horrible" the prevailing pollution situation in Delhi-NCR, the court directed that a list of 15-year-old petrol and 10-year-old diesel vehicles be published on the website of the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) and transport departments of the NCR area.
Last week, the Supreme Court had ruled that people in the country can burst firecrackers only from 8 pm to 10 pm only on Diwali permitting the sale and manufacture of low emission “green” firecrackers countrywide.
(With agency inputs)