Graded Response Action Plan

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    • Residents in Ghaziabad, Noida and Greater Noida breathed this season’s worst air for the first time since the Graded Response Action Plan came into effect.

    About the plan

    • M. C. Mehta vs. Union of India: Regarding air quality in the National Capital Region of Delhi, a Graded Response Action Plan has been prepared for implementation under different Air Quality Index (AQI) categories namely, Moderate & Poor, Very Poor, and Severe as per National Air Quality Index.
    • Time period: The action plan has been in effect for three years in Delhi and NCR.
    • Only an emergency measure: GRAP works only as an emergency measure. As such, the plan does not include action by various state governments to be taken throughout the year to tackle industrial, vehicular and combustion emissions.
      • The plan is incremental in nature therefore, when the air quality moves from ‘Poor’ to ‘Very Poor’, the measures listed under both sections have to be followed.
    • Severe+’ stage: A new category of “Severe+ or Emergency” has been added.
      • If air quality reaches the ‘Severe+’ stage, the response under GRAP includes extreme measures such as shutting down schools and implementing the odd-even road-space rationing scheme.
    • Agencies involved: The plan requires action and coordination among 13 different agencies in Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Rajasthan (NCR areas). At the head of the table is the EPCA, mandated by the Supreme Court.
    • Implementation: Ministry of Environment, Forests & Climate Change has notified for implementation of Graded Response Action Plan through Environment Pollution (Prevention & Control).
    • Measures: With a first round of measures including a ban on non-essential use of diesel generator sets. More measures will kick in as the anticipated increase in levels of pollution takes place with the arrival of winter.
      • Diesel generator sets can no longer be used in Delhi and the NCR towns of Noida, Ghaziabad, Greater Noida, Faridabad, and Gurgaon. The only exception is DG sets used for emergency and essential services.
    • Other measures Taken: Pollution control authorities will begin night patrolling to check for dust and industrial emissions, as well as the burning of waste.
      • Mechanised sweeping and frequent sprinkling of water on roads (to make the dust settle) have been directed.

    Significance of the plan

    • Step-by-step plan: Creating a step-by-step plan for the entire Delhi-NCR region
    • Getting on board several agencies: all pollution control boards, industrial area authorities, municipal corporations, regional officials of the India Meteorological Department, and others.
    • Fixing accountability and deadlines: The biggest success of GRAP has been in fixing accountability and deadlines. For each action to be taken under a particular air quality category, executing agencies are clearly marked.
    • Three major policy decisions: that can be credited to EPCA and GRAP are the closure of the thermal power plant at Badarpur, bringing BS-VI fuel to Delhi before the deadline set initially, and the ban on Pet coke as a fuel in Delhi-NCR.

    Criticism of the EPCA as well as GRAP

    • Focus on Delhi: One criticism of the EPCA as well as GRAP has been the focus on Delhi. While other states have managed to delay several measures, citing lack of resources, Delhi has always been the first to have stringent measures enforced.
    • Most polluted city: In 2014, when a study by the World Health Organisation found that Delhi was the most polluted city in the world, panic spread in the Centre and the state government.
    • Focus on other states: For GRAP as well as EPCA, the next challenge is to extend the measures to other states effectively.

    About AQI

    • The higher the AQI value, the greater the level of air pollution and the bigger the health concern. An AQI between zero and 50 is considered ‘Good’, 51 and 100 ‘Satisfactory’, 101 and 200 ‘Moderate’, 201 and 300 ‘Poor’, 301 and 400 ‘Very Poor’, and 401 and 500 ‘Severe’.

    What is polluting Delhi’s air?

    • Landlocked city: Delhi is a landlocked city. 
    • Urbanisation: From industries to vehicles, urbanisation has its effects on the city’s air quality.
    • Meteorological phenomena: The national capital’s environment is also highly influenced by different meteorological phenomena- in summer, the air quality is influenced by dust storms from Rajasthan and in winter it is impacted by calm conditions and inversion as well as biomass burning in the NCR.

    Source: TH