Related Topic in KAS Prelims Syllabus:
Environmental Science [Paper-II]: Issues and concerns related to Environment, its legal aspects, policies and treaties for the protection of Environment at the National and the International level, Environmental Hazards, Pollution
- Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority [EPCA] declared a Public Health Emergency in Delhi-NCR region as pollution levels entered the ‘severe plus emergency’ category.
- On November 1, 2019, the overall Air Quality Index (AQI) was around 530 in the region.
- Construction activities, hot mix plants and stone crushers in Delhi, Faridabad, Gurugram, Ghaziabad, Noida and Greater Noida will remain closed till morning of November 5, 2019.
- Earlier, the EPCA had banned construction activities only for the period between 6 pm and 10 am till November 2, 2019. Now, no construction can take place even in daytime.
- All these measures are part of the Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP) that has been in effect for 2 years in Delhi and the National Capital Region (NCR).
- Current air quality is a combination of the accumulated toxins because of local pollution, which was further spiked because of cracker burning on Diwali night, combined with stubble burning and extremely adverse weather.
- A recent report found that major causes of pollution in the capital and surrounding cities, were construction dust, vehicle emissions and burning of agricultural waste.
- People are facing symptoms associated with pollution like irritation in the eyes and throat, dry skin, skin allergies, chronic cough and breathlessness.
- Air pollution will have adverse health impact including respiratory ailments, particularly on children.
Air Quality Index (AQI)
- AQI is an index for reporting daily air quality.
- It is used by government agencies to communicate to the public how polluted the air currently is or how polluted it is forecast to become.
- Public health risks increase as the AQI rises.
- Different countries have their own air quality indices, corresponding to different national air quality standards.
- National Air Quality Index (AQI) is under the aegis of the CPCB.
- AQI has been developed to inform people about the level of eight pollutants— PM2.5, PM10, Ammonia, Lead, nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide, ozone, and carbon monoxide.
What does AQI values say?
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’. AQI above 500 falls in the ‘severe-plus emergency’ category.
What is ‘Severe+’ or ‘Emergency’ Level of Air Pollution?
- Air pollution is said to reach emergency levels when PM2.5 levels cross 300 µg/m3 or PM10 levels cross 500 µg/m3.
- As per the GRAP, these levels that are about five times the standard need to persist for 48 hours or more before an emergency level can be declared.
What is Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP)?
- GRAP is the guiding principle for air pollution management for Delhi and NCR, pioneered by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) and implemented by Environmental Pollution (Prevention & Control) Authority (EPCA).
- It was approved by the Supreme Court in 2016.
- The Plan institutionalised measures to be taken when air quality deteriorates.
- GRAP works only as an emergency measure.
- As such, the plan does not include action by various state governments to be taken throughout the year to tackle industrial, vehicular and combustion emissions.
- When the air quality shifts from poor to very poor, the measures listed under both sections have to be followed since the plan is incremental in nature.
How does GRAP work?
- Strict enforcement of lower pollution norms: Trucks and buses mixing kerosene and diesel should be impounded, and fined.
- All construction activity in Delhi should be done with draping, to ensure that dust and dirt doesn’t fly into the air. This is done everywhere else in the world.
- To prevent burning of wood etc during peak winters, build shelters for the homeless to sleep at night in the winters.
- Efforts should be made to prevent stubble burning by farmers from neighbouring states of Delhi and Haryana.
- Buses from other states should be allowed to enter Delhi only if they meet certain pollution norms.
- There is a need for stringent vigilance and punitive action against all cases of local pollution, from plastic and garbage burning to dust pollution.
- GRAP could be re-graded by shifting actions two or three steps earlier.
- Capable staff for monitoring and management could be created by an ‘Environmental Cadre’ that is trained and knows what to do in which situation and how to address environmental problems in a holistic manner.