A slew of emergency measures is being put in place to curb air pollution in the NCR. Civic agencies have been warned to ensure no construction activity took place and to shut down all factories in this region for the next week.
In a study conducted by the Ministry of Environment and Forests in 2015, it was found that dust pollution caused by construction activity contributed to 52 percent of the particulate matter in the air and was the key contributor to particulate pollution in the NCR. While the Delhi Pollution Control Committee has imposed fines on several construction sites, the fact that they have continued with their activities indicates that these fines are not severe enough and that the builder lobby does not take them seriously.
The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has also asked the city government to sprinkle water on all the main thoroughfares to control dust pollution. All diesel vehicles over 15 years old will be compulsorily deregistered and taken off the road. But the idea of cloud seeding to clear the smog has been shot down as being extremely expensive and also a method that may not necessarily prove effective. Beijing has invested over $150 million in doing research on artificial rain but its results continue to be mired in controversy.
The state government has also imposed a ban on the use of firecrackers in all functions including marriages but this has not stopped the public from using firecrackers through the night of Chatt puja. The Delhi government is moving full steam ahead to install five giant air purifiers in areas which face the brunt of traffic congestion.
These machines will be installed at the ITO junction, near the Kashmere Gate Interstate bus terminus , Anand Vihar, which has now been rated as the most polluted district of India and also at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences.
Outdoor air purifiers have been installed in Beijing and Hong Kong near congested areas including bus stops and are known to help create corridors of air which help disperse particulate matter.
NEERI has designed these outdoor air purifier and the principle on which they work is to create wind-driven turbulence in order to both dilute and drive away coarse pollutants. Each machine will have an average size of 27 cubic feet and will comprise of multi-layered filters that will get rid of particulate matter.
NEERI engineers point out that the filters will be made of enmeshed fibers which are similar to the high-efficiency particulate arresting filters being used in indoor air purifiers. Most of the filters are re-usable and given the present high levels of pollution, are expected to be changed every two days but their advantage is that after being cleaned, they can be re-used. These purifiers will have timers that will be connected to sensors that will turn on the purifier or turn it off if the levels of pollution fall.
Minister of Health Satyendra Jain has pointed out, ` There is going to be much tighter supervision of all vehicles coming to the NCR and all vehicles not having pollution under control certificates will be impounded. We are also going to ensure that compliance reports for vehicular movement are filed on a daily basis which will lead to a decline of particulate matter.’ Other measures include closing down the Badarpur thermal plant for the next ten days.
But while visibility has improved, pollution levels remain `severe’. The System of Air Quality Weather Forecasting and Research (SAFAR) has warned the Delhi residents that with lowering temperatures in the days to come, PM 2.5 and PM 10 particulate matter are going to remain at dangerously high levels. And this is what is frightening the Delhites. Will the heavy smog witnessed last Saturday and Sunday remain with us right through the next few winter months?