The Supreme Court-appointed watchdog EPCA is planning to devise a system under which measures like odd-even will kick in automatically when air pollution enters ’emergency’ zone. Earlier this month, when pollution had breached emergency levels, the Delhi government had decided to implement the car-rationing scheme based on odd and even number plates, but had to call it off at the last moment. The National Green Tribunal (NGT) had made it clear that it would allow the scheme to be enforced only if the exemptions to two-wheelers and women were withdrawn, but the Arvind Kejriwal government had expressed its inability to do so, citing inadequacies in the city’s public transport system.
Caught between the NGT and the government, the measure, which is a part of the Centre-notified Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP), could ultimately not be enforced. In fact, the Delhi government had gone ahead with its plan without the Environment Pollution (Prevention & Control) Authority’s (EPCA) approval. Firstly, the court-appointed watchdog was not in favour of its implementation as pollution levels were expected to dip and secondly, it was against exemptions. It is learnt that the EPCA is now mulling over a proposal to make the enforcement mechanism automatic so that such situations can be avoided. The issue is likely to be taken up at the panel’s meeting tomorrow.
This also found in a recent report of the EPCA to the apex court. The report stressed on the need for “deterrence” so that GRAP’s implementation is strengthened. “It is clear that any direction is as good as its implementation. Given all the challenges of effective governance in our cities, it is clear we need a better system for the implementation of GRAP, during the pollution emergency periods. “EPCA will discuss how stronger deterrence can be incorporated in GRAP and get back to the Hon’ble Court on the possible directives needed in this regard,” says the report.
Under the current mechanism, if pollution persists in emergency category for 48 hours or more, then action as required under such severe spells, shall immediately be pressed into action through state-level committees and various implementing agencies listed in GRAP. In the case of odd-even, the implementing agency as listed by GRAP is the transport department in Delhi and transport commissioners of the NCR towns such as Gurgaon, Ghaziabad and Noida