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HT EDIT-The pollution report card Delhi has done better. But the real test has just begun

October 11, 2019 04:48 AM


The pollution report card
Delhi has done better. But the real test has just begun

If Wednesday brought some cheer to the capital, Thursday was a reminder that all is not well. The Central Pollution Control Board data showed that the city’s air a day after Dussehra was the cleanest in five years for a day after the festival. The city’s air quality index (AQI) was recorded at 173 compared to 326 last year. Delayed withdrawal of monsoon, fewer cases of stubble burning, and a conscious decision by many to cut back on fireworks and effigy burning on Dussehra has also helped keep pollution under check. But while this was good news, reports indicate that Delhi is now staring at the onset of severe pollution, with a spike in PM 10 and PM 2.5 levels, and the beginning of farm fires in neighbouring states.

In the last few years, air pollution has become a key political issue, thanks to years of activism by sections of the public and several non-governmental organisations, a stream of credible scientific reports, and the Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority (EPCA) that formulated the Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP), which was approved by the Supreme Court in 2016. The sustained pressure and focus on air pollution, and its severe effects on the health of the citizens, has forced the Centre and the Delhi government to act.

The real test has, however, begun now. Stubble burning has started in Haryana and Punjab. Diwali celebrations will soon take place. And weather conditions are beginning to change, with winter approaching. Authorities have said that GRAP-related stricter measures to fight air pollution will come into effect from October 15. However, one must not forget that GRAP is an emergency response. Delhi desperately needs a long-term plan to tackle air pollution, which includes improving public transport, dust control and waste management. This is not happening at the required pace. Also critical is cooperation from other states as pollutants don’t regard state boundaries. Delhi is taking the right steps, but the battle against air pollution will be a long and hard one. Thursday has shown that the problem is now deep and structural, and will require deep

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