Worried govt sets up pollution control room in Delhi

With Diwali and winter almost here, the union government has decided to set up a control room to daily review the pollution level and monitor the air quality in Delhi and the National Capital Region (NCR).

Noting that the recent 15-day long smog in Singapore was a warning to all cities including Delhi to become more serious about the issue, environment minister Prakash Javadekar said that the control room will be set up at the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB).

To bring in more accountability, he said his ministry will soon issue directions under Section 18 of the Air Act to improve the air quality in Delhi and NCR.

The minister also appealed to people, especially children not to burst firecrackers this Diwali.

"The government will immediately set up a Control Room in CPCB to undertake a daily review of levels of air pollution and monitor air quality in Delhi and NCR. Directions will be issued shortly under Section 18 of Air Act to improve the air quality in Delhi and NCR," Javadekar said.

He said this after holding a review meeting with the environment ministers and officials of Haryana, Delhi, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and Punjab regarding the one-year action plan to curb air pollution.

He said the latest problem being faced by the Delhi airshed was stubble-burning in the farmlands of neighbouring Punjab and Haryana, which along with the advent of winter will lead to increased air pollution. "The Singapore haze problem has given a warning to all cities to become more serious.

"To create accountability, we have decided to issue directions under section 18 of Air Act. This will strengthen the hands of all the agencies involved and will also give a legal force to them," he said.

Appealing to citizens, especially children, to "say no to firecrackers" this Diwali, Javadekar said, "I am convinced that children are the best ambassadors. When they say no to firecrackers, there will be no firecrackers. Already there is a decrease in it."

During the meeting various measures were suggested to reduce and eliminate stubble burning, including viable alternatives to discourage stubble burning, imposing a ban and providing subsidies on bail machines.

The minister also said that a group has been started on WhatsApp through which citizens can send messages and alert authorities whenever they find stubble or wastes being burnt.

In Delhi, Javadekar said, Pollution Under Control (PUC) norms were being strictly enforced. "One lakh vehicles were checked recently out of which 70,000 vehicles were found to have valid PUCs. The number of PUC checking points has also been increased," he said.

"The trials for the Waste to Energy plant at Ghazipur have been conducted successfully and the plant will be formally inaugurated soon. Delhi government has also sent a letter to 2,000 schools and eco-clubs, requesting them to say no to firecrackers and minimise the use of firecrackers on Diwali," an environment ministry statement said.

Javadekar said that he had a called up Punjab chief minister Prakash Singh Badal who assured that they are taking serious action against issues like stubble burning.

The ministry statement while communicating about the meeting today said that while Punjab government has started an awareness programme to educate farmers on the ill-effects of burning paddy stubble and biomass, the Rajasthan government had already banned stubble burning in the state through a notification issued in August this year.

In Punjab, mechanised road cleaning has been started in Mohali and it will soon be expanded to include other cities. The Rajasthan government has increased the number of PUC checkpoints from 475 to 800, the statement said.

"All agencies are following and doing their bit. We have asked them to do more on all aspects of checking stubble and biomass burning, addressing construction and demolition waste rules, PUC linked with server, mechanized road cleaning, lane discipline and waste management," Javadekar said.

Haryana minister Captain Abhimanyu, Rajasthan minister Raj Kumar Rinwa, Delhi minister Imran Hussain, officials from New Delhi Municipal Corporation (NDMC), Delhi Development Authority (DDA), Delhi Traffic Police, as well as officials from the governments of Haryana, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and Delhi were present at the meeting.