The Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) on Sunday welcomed the emergency measures announced by the Delhi government to combat the prevailing smog, including closure of all schools for three days.
The unprecedented smog levels have turned the national capital into a virtual gas chamber.
While welcoming Delhi government’s action plan, CSE demanded strict implementation of emergency measures and long term action including boosting public transport to fight pollution on a sustainable manner.
Emergency measures to curb pollution announced by Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal included ban on construction and demolition work for five days and the use of diesel-run generator sets for 10 days.
The Chief Minister also directed shut down of the coal-based thermal power plant at Badarpur in south Delhi for 10 days, sprinkling of water on the city’s roads on a large scale, vacuum cleaning of all 100-foot broad roads maintained by the Public Works Department (PWD) and strict enforcement of ban on burning garbage and dry leaves.
CSE’s executive director (Research and Advocacy) Anumita Roychowdhury said that this emergency situation demands emergency action.
“However, these measures will now require stringent enforcement,” she said.
Roychowdhury added vehicle restraint measures including odd-even scheme and parking restraints must also be implemented simultaneously.
The government is already exploring the possibility of implementing odd-even scheme under which, vehicles with odd registration number would alone ply on odd dates and those with even registration number on even dates.
“Vehicles contribute to hugely toxic emissions very close to where people are, thus exposing them to very high toxic risk when pollution remains trapped close to the ground level,” a CSE statement said.
“Along with vehicle restraint measures, the government needs to scale up and intensify the public transport system,” it added.
CSE also asked the government to step up inter-state coordination to address the smoke plumes from the farm fires in Punjab and Haryana.
Earlier, while announcing emergency measures, Kejriwal also maintained that this was a larger problem involving neighbouring states, where farmers are said to be burning crop stubble in a wide area, and sought the central government’s intervention.
“This is the time to set aside politics and find a solution (to the problem),” Kejriwal said after presiding over an emergency meeting of his cabinet.
He directed the municipal authorities to bring under control the fire at the land fill sites in Delhi.
Kejriwal also appealed to people to remain indoors as much as possible.
“Please stay indoors and try to work from home as much as possible.”
The Delhi government was also analysing the possibility of inducing artificial rains to control pollution but this would need to be discussed with experts and the central government, Kejriwal said.
With high levels of PM 2.5, the pollution crisis in Delhi continues to be classified as “severe”, with a blanket of smog covering the entire city as well as the neighbouring states.
Delhi’s pollution levels worsened after Diwali on October 30.
Delhi’s dismal air quality has been attributed to low wind speed and high humidity which has blocked dispersal of pollutants.