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Delhi cannot win the battle to clean up its air if NCR cities don’t follow suit. And NCR cities will remain a problem because of widespread use of diesel generator sets, necessitated by power outages.
Reducing use of diesel generator sets will be the biggest challenge before the EPCA (Environment Pollution Control Authority), which on Thursday asked the district magistrates of NCR cities like Gurugram, Noida and Ghaziabad to implement the Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP) with immediate effect.
GRAP was introduced last year to combat pollution levels during the winter months when weather conditions and crop stubble burning push up both PM2.5 and PM10 levels. Last year, NCR cities were permitted to use diesel gensets and exempted from the odd-even scheme due to lack of infrastructure but those exemptions have been lifted this year.
EPCA chairman Bhure Lal said, “DG sets can’t run in NCR. In case of emergency, the DG set user will have to obtain a certificate from the discom stating that even a temporary connection of electricity is not possible in the region.”
But this will be virtually impossible to implement in Gurugram, Noida and Ghaziabad unless the power discoms in the three cities come up with a magic formula to completely stop outages in the winter months. And even if they somehow do manage this, it still won’t stop widespread use of diesel gensets.
Both in highrise-dense Gurugram and Noida, there are whole residential towers and also entire housing societies that run on high-power diesel gensets because they don’t have an official power connection from the discom. Gurgaon’s new sectors (58-115) run entirely on gensets because power substations have not yet been built. According to an estimate, there are around 11,000 diesel gensets of 500kVA capacity in Gurugram. A study by the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) in June this year pointed out that diesel gensets trigger a 30% increase in pollution levels.
Most condominiums in NCR provide uninterrupted power to residents by using diesel gensets that automatically switch on if an outage happens so that basic services like elevators are not disrupted. Since outages happen daily and are frequent, gensets are the lifeline of all housing societies.
“It is extremely difficult to ban diesel gensets as there are many societies that don’t have any power supply, especially in new sectors. We will seek a clarification from EPCA,” said a Gurugram administration official.
Asked if poor power infrastructure and supply were considered, Bhure Lal later told TOI, “I will talk to the power secretary of Haryana and ascertain the power supply condition. Electricity is surplus in India and if they are failing to meet the supply, they can get connected to the grid and get enough supply.”
According to GRAP, ban on diesel gensets will be implemented if the PM10 level rises above 800 micrograms per cubic metre and PM2.5 above 500 micrograms per cubic metre. GRAP lists separate sets of action plans depending on the levels of air quality — moderate, poor, very poor and severe. Use of diesel gensets will, however, be allowed in hospitals, nursing homes, health care centres, at metro facilities, railway stations and bus terminals. Police have, meanwhile, been asked to ensure traffic that is not Delhi-bound does not enter Delhi for a detour.
“NCR needs to work to implement all GRAP measures,” Bhure Lal said. “While I appreciate some steps like incentivising gram panchayats of Haryana to ensure zero crop stubble burning, there is a lot that NCR needs to do,” he added, echoing the views he expressed last week to UP officials when he slammed the state government for not doing anything to bring down pollution levels.
The EPCA chief also ordered closure of all brick kilns with immediate effect. “Whether the brick kilns have zig-zag technology or not, all brick kilns will have to remain shut till February 1 in NCR,” he said. Instructions were given to implement strict ban on waste burning, construction waste dumping and increasing the number of CNG buses. “If garbage is seen burning anywhere, first pour water on it and extinguish the fire. Then take strict action against the offender,” Bhure Lal said.
Talking about the measures to monitor air pollution, Lal said, “Installation of air monitoring machines is delayed by more than one year and should be completed this winter.” The meeting on GRAP was held in Delhi under the chairmanship of environment secretary CK Mishra.
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