The Union Environment Minister Harshvardhan on October 15, 2018 unveiled an air quality early warning system for the Delhi region. The system has been designed with the help of American and Finnish models to predict extreme air pollution levels.
Speaking on the occasion, the Environment Minister said that with the early information on bad air quality, people can be educated to get well prepared in advance. Talking about stubble burning, the Minister said that there has been a decrease in detection of fire incidents as per satellite mapping in Haryana and Punjab. He said that instructions have been issued to monitor stubble burning in these areas on priority.
The system has been launched by the Union Government in Delhi, keeping in view the city’s deteriorating air quality. An associated website has also been launched along with it.
The system will help combat air pollution in the National Capital by getting information 2-5 days in advance. It will also give signs for necessary actions.
• The system called - Air Quality Early Warning System - will have an in-built web-based dissemination tool to inform public and enforcement agencies about episodic high pollution events in advance. Such information may be helpful for the general public in planning their outdoor activities.
• The system will also make it easier for government’s pollution watchdogs to alert stakeholders and the general public about air quality 48 hours in advance. The move will give them adequate time to take precautionary measures.
• The system has been jointly developed by the scientists of the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology (IITM) Pune, National Centre for Medium Range Weather Forecasting, Noida and India Meteorological Department (IMD).
• Besides this, the Central Pollution Control Board has constituted a 41 member-team, which will continuously monitor the air pollution levels and report to the board.
The air quality in New Delhi was 204 on October 14, 2018. The city’s air quality usually breaches the ‘severe’ zone, when the AQI reading shoots up to five times above the safe limit, in November.
On November 9, 2017, AQI shot up to 486 on a scale of 0-500, underscoring conditions that prompted the Delhi government to declare a public health emergency and describe Delhi as a ‘gas chamber’.
Measures taken to reduce air pollution in Delhi
• According to the Union Government, the Central Pollution Control Board (CPBC) is proactively doing research in adjoining areas and sending reports of affected places to the concerned department. The government is also taking steps to reduce emission from vehicles.
• The Delhi Government also rolled out its emergency action plan - Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP) for the second year in a row on October 15.
• The plan, which was first implemented in 2017, aims to fight ‘very poor’ and ‘severe’ air pollution level.
• Under the emergency action plan, stringent measures will be implemented such as a ban on diesel generator (DG) sets in Delhi.
• If the air quality deteriorates further and reaches the ‘severe’ or ‘emergency’ categories, other stringent measures including the ban on construction activities, ban on stone crushers and hot mix plants, enhancing parking fees and rolling out the odd-even road rationing scheme will be implemented.
• The measures listed under GRAP to control ‘moderate’ and ‘poor’ levels of pollution are generally enforced in the summer and monsoon months and measures to control ‘very poor’ and ‘severe’ categories of pollution will be enforced from October 15 to March 15 of the following year.
• The move comes at a time when the city has already encountered nine days of ‘poor’ air quality in the first two weeks of October.
• In November 2017, schools were shut when air quality turned ‘severe’ for more than a week.
In May, Delhi was declared the world’s most polluted city, according to the air quality data compiled by the World Health Organisation (WHO) for megacities with a population of 14 million or more.
While Greater Cairo in Egypt was adjudged the second most polluted city, Bangladesh‘s capital Dhaka was placed third, Mumbai fourth and Beijing fifth.
However, new measures including the installation of the early warning system in the capital have helped it become better equipped to fight air pollution in 2018.
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