The Union Environment Ministry notified the Graded Response Action Plan to combat air pollution in Delhi-NCR last week. Each state government, which has districts in NCR, has a crucial role to play in ensuring the success of the plan. The Indian Express spoke to Bhure Lal, chairperson of the Environment Pollution Control Authority (EPCA), responsible for implementing the plan and coordinating with agencies on the ground.
What is the biggest challenge in the implementation of the plan?
Implementing agencies (there are at least 16) must be honest and sincere about implementing the plan. We are hoping for the best. The toughest actions to take are the ones that stop vehicular pollution and pollution from burning as a change needs to be effected in people’s attitudes here. Fires in garbage dumps are also of grave concern and difficult to stop as landfill sites have been created in an unscientific manner.
Burning crop stubble is another big challenge. It is one of the factors that led to a serious dip in air quality in the first week of November last year. State governments have made some efforts to control it but more needs to be done. Punjab alone burnt 15 million tonnes of paddy straw last year. Old habits die hard. But EPCA will not just coordinate the actions on ground. We will also make visits to check what is happening on the ground and report it to the authorities concerned.
We at EPCA have been thinking about having a comprehensive intervention strategy for a very long time. After things became very poor in terms of air quality, we prepared the plan and presented it to the Supreme Court, which passed it. We consulted NGOs, the Central Pollution Control Board, state pollution control boards, environment experts, and chief secretaries of state governments concerned on a regular basis when finalising the plan. After direction from the Supreme Court and the notification from the Centre, we expect the stakeholders to respect it.
While Delhi has a fairly widespread air pollution monitoring network, NCR is not at par. How will this affect the quality of data collection?
There are 51 stations in the whole of NCR right now. Of these, 28 are in Delhi. It certainly needs more strengthening, especially in Haryana. Fifty-five more stations have been proposed in the area. We should have a stronger network soon.