Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal led government has been left scrambling to find a solution to 2 problems that have beset it for years – air pollution and public transport. In a move to speed up the process of Delhi’s bus augmentation, the Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority (EPCA) has set December 2018 as the deadline for the Kejriwal government to increase the number of busses in the city to a whopping 10,000 – at the moment it doesn’t have even 4000! On November 16, the EPCA had submitted to the Supreme Court its report on Comprehensive Action Plan for Air Pollution. The report is awaiting the clearance of the apex court now. The report was submitted earlier in March but the court had asked for specific timelines for each measure. The matter will be heard on December 4 now and if the apex court clears the report then the Centre will have to notify the same.
The report says that the Delhi government must ensure total compliance with the orders of 1998 and 2016 by December 2018. This requires at least 10,000 buses in the city. According to Anumita Roychowdhury, CSE and EPCA member, the report was changed earlier as the Supreme Court had asked for specific timelines to be stipulated.
The comprehensive plan is based on a 2012 blueprint prepared by the Sheila Dikshit government and a 42-point action plan of the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) and the Delhi Master Plan 2021 among others. As per the plan, the percentage of reduction in PM10 required in Delhi, Faridabad, Ghaziabad, Noida and Meerut are 74, 64, 76, 56 and 60 percent respectively. The plan also states that PM 2.5 and nitrogen dioxide (NO2) levels have to come down by 70 and 37.5 percent in the national capital.
A transport department official said, “There were a number of issues that have plagued the department. We are systematically and quickly approaching the issue.”
Meanwhile, the pollution level on Sunday rose. The Air Quality Index was 352 on a scale of 500. The volume of particulate matter (PM), the dominant pollutants in Delhi’s air, rose through the day. SAFAR, an agency under the Ministry of Earth Sciences, readings had PM2.5 at 194 and PM10 at 309 micrograms per cubic metre (ug/m3). When levels of PM2.5 go above 300 ug/m3 and PM10 breach 500 ug/m3, pollution is considered as ‘severe plus’ or emergency. The corresponding 24-hour safe limits of these ultrafine particulates are 60 and 100. According to the CPCB’s air lab chief Dipankar Saha and SAFAR’s prediction, the concentration of particulate matter will gradually rise over the next few days.