Top international NGO Greenpeace has said that there is a need for an urgent nation-wide, systemic solution for pollution crisis response, and the Delhi government's announcement of “emergency measures” to help citizens cope with the public health crisis of hazardous air pollution levels lack a national perspective.
Insisting on the need for ‘Clean Air Nation’ campaign, the statement says, there is a need for a “stronger National Air Quality Index (NAQI), including health advisories and alert system for closure of polluting sources and industries to be triggered automatically. ”
It adds, a “National Clean Air action plan should including all the sources of pollution i.e., biomass burning, industry, thermal power plants, transports, construction and demolition activities and fugitive dust emissions etc.”
Seeking to “set targets for reducing interstate pollution, including a compliance plan for meeting the new thermal power plant emission standards ”, Greenpeace says, there should be a “deadline for meeting the national air quality standards, e.g. 5-year interim targets, for reducing pollution levels in each state and city.”
“The measures announced by the Delhi government may bring some relief to some citizens, but this is frankly too little too late, and fails to address the problem in its entirety,” says Sunil Dahiya, Greenpeace India campaigner.
“An effective NAQI would automatically trigger the issuing of a health advisory and the resultant closure of schools and offices etc., instead of these measures only being announced after a series of consultations and cabinet meetings”, Dahiya underlines.
“Even now, the problem is really only being discussed in post-Diwali Delhi terms”, Dahiya regrets, adding, “The levels may have peaked this week, but they have been consistently high for months now. And although shutting down the Badarpur Thermal Power Plant is a welcome first move, how about applying the same logic to the other plants, and the pollution affecting the rest of the Indo-Gangetic Plain region?”
Meanwhile, a report submitted to the Supreme court on short-term emergency action and strict enforcement for effective control of toxic and dangerous air pollution by Delhi-based Environment Pollution Prevention and Control Authority for National Capital Region (EPCA) has urged the government to treat the current smog episode “as a public health emergency.”
EPCA says, “The levels of PM2.5 have increased by 1.4 times on November 5, 2016 as compared to Diwali. It is 14 times the standard on November 5, 2016. The smog in the national capital is worse than the London smog incident in 1952-53.”
It adds, “Extremely high pollution in Delhi is a combination of huge numbers of vehicles, unchecked construction and road dust, garbage burning, Diwali crackers, burning of paddy residue by farmers in Punjab and Haryana and a near still weather conditions with very low wind speed.”
Seeking “strict enforcement” of Environment Compensation Charge (ECC) on Delhi-bound trucks in order to put a check on numbers, the report says, there should also be “strict enforcement” of “control of dust pollution from construction activities and road through vacuum cleaning”, of “ban on garbage burning and urgent action to control pollution from thermal power plant in Delhi and its vicinity by shutting down plants during winter months.”
Then, it says, there should be “urgent action to reduce pollution from fly ash dumps in thermal power plants”, with “strict action from Punjab and Haryana to curb biomass burning through enforcement”, even as insisting on the need to “provide farmers with alternatives to use paddy straw for energy and for tilling into ground for manure.”