In 2014, Delhi was the most polluted city on Earth with air pollution levels much higher than what was declared ‘unhealthy and hazardous’ by the US Environment Protection Agency. In November 2016, it became an emergency situation wherein schools were closed for three days and all construction works were halted for five days.
Until I read this graph, I was oblivious to the magnitude of the city’s situation, last year. However, this year, the measures taken in Delhi well in advance before the Diwali season made much sense. In order to pull up the air quality, The Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP) has been put to force in Delhi since October 17th, 2017 and shall continue until February 2018. In spite of experts discouraging the effects as impractical and lacking long-term goals, several action plans are being put to action since its implementation.
Governments and agencies can devise methods and give instructions; however, what ultimately can make Delhi a safe city to breathe is, how people understand, respect and respond to GRAP. Here’s an attempt to understand GRAP and the responsibilities that lies with every Delhi-NCRite.
Under GRAP, several stations are installed across Delhi-NCR to check the air quality, on an everyday basis. The index below shows how air quality is categorized. Based on the everyday reports, a plan for action, specific to an area with high alert levels of AQI is devised. The chart below lists the action plans against each category of AQI.
Air Quality Index (AQI)
Here are some of the action plans that are in the news since GRAP implementation:
Helicopters to sprinkle water over Delhi: AAP has proposed to implement artificial rainfall through choppers which can settle down dry dust particles floating around the city. Though criticisms and practicality of this plan is under discussion, a group of people are positive about its effects.
Ban on Diwali crackers sale until November 1st: It was a timely intervention by the Government to have banned the sale of crackers until two weeks after Diwali. In spite of the ban, pollution levels in Delhi has reached the ‘Very Poor’ AQI mark though it was deemed better than how it was last year.
Power plant shut down: The Badarpur power plant which runs on coal fire is asked to close down until March 2018. The power plant which majorly contributes to the poor air quality in Delhi was closed down from November 2016 until March this year under GRAP. The same is decided to carry on this year too.
Ban on diesel generators: Diesel generators are being used around the city in well-to-do homes or other large buildings or businesses. The issue with using diesel generators is that they produce Nitrogen Oxides which are major smog forming pollutants. Identifying its negative impact, GRAP has banned the use of diesel generators in Delhi.
The odd-even scheme: Twice put to action in 2016, the odd-even scheme may come into action again this year. According to this plan, vehicles having plate numbers ending with odd numbers are allowed on the roads on odd dates while those with even numbers are allowed on even dates. There are exemptions from this rule for certain vehicles like emergency vehicles, cars driven by women etc. Though this scheme met enough criticisms, it could be re-implemented in Delhi in the coming days.
Here are a few contributions that Delhiites can make towards GRAP:
The city’s air quality is now dependent on every citizen rather than the Government and public schemes. GRAP has been received with mixed views of positivity and scorn by people. People expect infrastructure and reform plans to improve while Government expects people to abide by certain laws. It could be a never-ending debate about how effective each of the GRAP action plans are. However, irrespective of our perspectives toward the action plan, let us contribute our sincere roles to improve Delhi’s air quality. Here’s what you and me can do:
Use Sameer App
The Sameer app provides periodic updates of the air quality index around the area you are living in. As a responsible citizen, you can monitor how AQI changes around you. Further, you can identify the source of pollution when you find a rise in AQI, lodge a complaint through the app with pictures of the pollution source. This can help the Delhi Pollution Control Board to take a timely action in the alerted area. It is also a good platform to provide feedback and suggestions for the action plans. Alternatively, you can also register complaints through Whatsapp to 9717593501 and 9717593574. For free internet service, locate and use a nearby Vodafone’s free Wi-Fi hubspots.
Use Public Transport
It is the need of the hour in Delhi today to refrain from using personal automobiles for everyday commuting within the city. Yes, own vehicles are convenient; however, considering the pollution they emit and the traffic that is created, rethink about taking a metro or bus service for your daily routines.
Get your vehicle checked for emission level
While the exhaust that your car leaves out maybe a tiny percentage of the overall city’s pollution levels, it is imperative to get the emission level checked for the vehicles you own. If required, look into repair or change of a vehicle part for efficient functioning.
This needs no explanation after all!
For effective results, GRAP must be looked as a collective effort of citizens, Government and agencies. A city is dependent on each other of these for its overall living standards. While there are measures taken for positive changes, let us abide by it to keep the reformations alive!