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It’s hazy ahead: As Delhi enters the Graded Action Plan period with “very poor” air quality, it seems a question of time before emergency measures are introduced | Photo: dbpost

With Delhi breathing ‘very poor’ air, GRAP plan enforced, diesel generators banned

On October 15, the annual Graded Action Plan (GRAP) came into force to curb air pollution with stricter measures in Delhi and surrounding areas, which would mean more bus and metro services, higher parking fees and a ban on the operation of diesel generators when the air quality turns “poor.” But air quality was already “very poor” on October 13 in the National Capital Region, with farmers from Punjab and Haryana burning their crop residues. A further escalation of pollution would trigger  “emergency” measures of banning trucks entering Delhi, a ban on construction activities and the introduction of the odd-even car rationing scheme.

No court relief for polluting brick kiln owners in Punjab, will have to pay compensation

The Punjab and Haryana high courts refused to provide relief to brick kiln owners after they were fined by the government over polluting kilns. The kiln owners had to upgrade their brick kilns with non-polluting infused draft or zigzag technology by September 30. The Punjab government had ordered that brick kilns found without new emissions technology will have to pay a fine on the ‘polluter pays’ principle amounting to ₹ 25,000 per month for a kiln with a capacity of more than 30,000 bricks per day and ₹ 20,000 per month for kilns with a capacity of less than 30,000 bricks per day. The Punjab government’s orders to kiln owners were in compliance with the Central Pollution Control Board and NGT orders of January 22.

Plastic burning: Culprits fined, pollution body slams Delhi, Haryana govts over inaction

The Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority (EPCA) served ultimatums to the Delhi and Haryana governments for failing to stop plastic burning as well as controlling road and construction dust. EPCA chief Bhure Lal visited Mundka and Tikri Kalan in Delhi, and Bahadurgarh in Haryana, and imposed ₹ 1 crore in fines on violators. Lal also gave 15 days to the Bahadurgarh District Magistrate to allot separate land to scrap market to build temporary structures to stock “mountains” of plastic and rubber, currently dumped illegally on agricultural land. Lal ordered the administration to keep him posted on where the traders are selling the scrap and what are they doing with unsold plastic. Last year, the country’s green court National Green Tribunal (NGT) banned plastic burning and imposed ₹25 crore fine on the Delhi government for failing to stop illegal plastic markets in Tikri Kalan. Tikri Kalan’s illegal PVC scrap market is the source of plastic fires in Haryana. 

Advanced warning system to predict stubble burning, farmers seek incentives to stop burning crop residue

Based on 15 years’ data, scientists can predict the exact date and place of the next instance of crop burning and help authorities to act in advance. The Union Ministry of Earth Sciences (MoES) launched the advanced Air Quality Early Warning System, which can preempt spots in neighbouring Delhi that are likely to burn crop residue on a given day. Forecasting stubble burning for the first time, scientists said the attempt is to learn how many times an area has burned on a day over the past 15 years and the average gives a probability of that happening again. Models to forecast forest fires already exist, but the crop burning model creates probability maps to alert about areas where the chances of stubble burning are going to be high.

Meanwhile, farmers in Haryana, Punjab, and UP continue to defy the crop-burning ban over lack of time between the crops and financial incentives. They have barely three weeks between October-end and mid-November to clear paddy stubble and sow wheat crop. Farmers say they want the government to pay at least a bonus of ₹ 100 per quintal on paddy to manage stubble, and claim that subsidies for machines are inadequate to meet requirements.

India launches national knowledge network (NKN) to back national clean air plan (NCAP)

Centre launched National Knowledge Network (NKN) of IITs/Labs/Universities across 18 states to back its pet National Clean Air Plan (NCAP) as its knowledge partner. Launched earlier this year, in January, the NCAP identified 102 non-attainable cities across the country as the long-term target of its clean air mission. The plan aims to drive state pollution control boards to deliver the national target: 20-30% reduction in air pollution in the next five years with 2019 as base year.

The Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur (IIT-K) has been set as NKN’s nodal institution. Prof. Sachchida Nand Tripathi,  the national nodal faculty for NKN network said state Pollution boards will be the key players to curb pollution, technical institutes will provide regular inputs to SPCBs and work towards reduction of pollution sources across key cities. The conference was attended by members from United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP), World Bank, Bloomberg Philanthropies, Shakti Foundation, along with clean air start-ups.

Delhi to get BS VI-compliant vehicles by 2020, will check air pollution: Prakash Javadekar

Union environment minister Prakash Javadekar said BS VI-compliant vehicles will be coming to Delhi by April 2020, which will lead to “great reduction in air pollution from vehicles.” Private vehicles are a major cause of Delh’s pollution. Bharat Stage VI fuel and emission standards envisage low sulphur fuel and also cut harmful nitrogen dioxide by 70% in diesel and 25% in petrol cars. Cancerous PM 2.5 and PM 10 will also drop by 80% under BS VI norms, while the cost of cars is set to rise by about ₹ 1 Lakh for diesel and about ₹ 25,000- ₹ 50,000 for petrol cars. BS VI fuel is estimated to be costlier by ₹ 2. The Supreme Court has ordered all vehicles to shift to cleaner BS VI norms, skipping BS V. BS standards are based on European emission norms. BS norms were introduced in 2000, and have since become very stringent. 

Surat’s unique particulate matter trading scheme was designed by economist nobel couple

The Economics Nobel laureates for 2019, Abhijit Banerjee and Esther Dufflo’s Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL), set up the world’s first particulate matter Emission Trading Scheme (ETS) in Surat, Gujarat. So far, 155 industrial units are trading particulate matter in a region where air pollution levels are high. The scheme is devised to bring down both, the air pollution and the cost of compliance for the industry. While there are trading schemes to curb pollution in other countries, none of them are for particulate matter emissions. Live trading began last month with 88 industries taking part in the first round, out of the 155 that have joined ETS so far. Emission permits worth ₹ 2.78 lakh were traded by units spread over an area of 50-30 sq km.