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Delhi air pollution drive

The national capital is set to launch on Saturday a two-week intensive campaign to enforce regulations to curb air pollution from construction dust, vehicular and industrial emissions and municipal solid waste which officials say could be replicated in other cities.

By G.S. Mudur
  • Published 9.02.18
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Vehicles moving in the road amidst heavy smog in New Delhi. Image: Shutterstock

New Delhi: The national capital is set to launch on Saturday a two-week intensive campaign to enforce regulations to curb air pollution from construction dust, vehicular and industrial emissions and municipal solid waste which officials say could be replicated in other cities.

The Union environment ministry and the Delhi government will deploy 70 teams of pollution control, enforcement and municipal corporation officials across the capital to identify sources of pollution, initiate remedial measures and take on-the-spot penal actions against serious polluters, the ministry said.

"This is not a symbolic exercise, but a serious effort to reduce air pollution in the capital," Union environment minister Harsh Vardhan said. "We cannot control some things such as weather or dust-carrying winds from western Asia, but there are many things we can do."

The campaign comes amid concerns that industrial and vehicular emissions, soot from crop residue burning in the northwestern states, garbage burning within the city and construction dust contribute to persistent poor levels of air quality over the capital.

Pollution surveys suggest Delhi generates about 131 tonnes of dust every day. The teams deployed during the February 10 to 23 campaign will seek to ensure that construction sites adhere to the Centre's dust-mitigation rules. These include the use of wind-breakers, water-sprinklers and mitigating emissions from loose soil.

The teams will also enforce pollution-control measures for vehicles and driving discipline, inspect power plants in the capital and ensure municipal solid waste is adequately managed to curb pollution, environment ministry officials said. Members of the public will be asked to alert teams about pollution sources.

"This is a concentrated effort to test our implementation tools - test what we've been doing," environment secretary Chandra Kishore Mishra said. "We're hoping to share with other states lessons from this exercise, a model that could be replicated in other states."

The Central Pollution Control Board, the government agency that tracks pollution nationwide, will set up a control room to document daily progress by the teams and suggest mid-course corrections. Minister Vardhan said the environment ministry planned to invite states' environment ministers to disseminate the findings.

A senior official who requested not to be named but will be involved in monitoring the campaign said its objective was to enforce discipline.

"We have to admit it - air pollution over the capital is largely an issue of implementation deficits. A significant proportion of pollution could be prevented through just drills and discipline."

Health researchers have cautioned that India's poor air quality is contributing to lakhs of premature deaths. A 2017 study by the US-based Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation had estimated that deaths linked to tiny, inhalable particulate matter sized 2.5 microns rose from about seven lakh in 1990 to about 10 lakh in 2015.