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As Pollution Spikes in Delhi-NCR, CPCB Orders Closure of Hot Mix Plants and Stone Crushers

The India Gate in Delhi shrouded in haze. (AFP)

The India Gate in Delhi shrouded in haze. (AFP)

For four to five consecutive days, the air quality has been in the 'severe' to 'severe+' category as local pollution and smoke from paddy straw burning was trapped due to calm winds and heavy moisture content.

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Nikhil Ghanekar

The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) on Wednesday ordered the closure of hot mix plants, stone crushers, dust mitigation at construction sites and compliance with the National Green Tribunal’s (NGT) orders in view of a spike in air pollution over Delhi-NCR. For four to five consecutive days, the air quality has been in the 'severe' to 'severe+' category as local pollution and smoke from paddy straw burning was trapped due to calm winds and heavy moisture content.

Following a meeting of the newly formed Commission on Air Quality Management in NCR and adjoining areas on Tuesday, it was decided to invoke the Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP). The commission entrusted CPCB with the task of operationalising and monitoring implementation of measures under GRAP. The commission was formed recently through an ordinance route to address the longstanding issue of toxic air pollution across Delhi-NCR and Punjab.

“GRAP has been in force. However, the CPCB needed directions from the commission to issue specific orders and we took a call to roll out certain measures commensurate with the air quality as per the actions given under GRAP,” said a member of the commission on condition of anonymity.

The CPCB issued an order on Wednesday to roll out actions to tackle the ‘very poor’ quality of air in Delhi-NCR. The GRAP, approved by the Supreme Court, dictates specific actions to be taken in Delhi-NCR when air pollution crosses a certain threshold. This slew of measures ranges from stopping the entry of trucks and construction activities to closing thermal power plants when air quality is in the ‘severe+’ or ‘severe’ category.

The CPCB in its order said it had reviewed air quality in the city along with meteorological scenarios and observed that even as PM 2.5 pollution was above 300 micrograms/cubic metres between November 8 and November 10, there was a declining trend.

On Tuesday, PM2.5 and PM 10 levels in some parts of the city was 15-20 times above the safe limits.

In view of the current conditions, the CPCB ordered the closure of hot mix plants and stone crushers till November 17, ordered an increase in mechanised road cleaning, dust mitigation and strict action against those who were violating directions on dust control. It also ordered Punjab and Haryana to take action against rice stubble burning and sought compliance of orders of NGT and other courts.

The city’s air quality improved on Wednesday owing to a change in the wind directions from northwesterly to easterly. The winds also picked up speed and this helped in the dispersion of pollutants that had accumulated in the city’s atmosphere for the past two days. SAFAR (System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting and Research), a central government agency said the air quality will improve further on Thursday before deteriorating once again by November 13. “This is expected mainly due to calm winds and a shift towards Northwesterly direction,” SAFAR said.


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