Need To Strengthen Monitoring Network In Delhi-NCR: Air Quality Panel

The panel noted that there has been considerable progress in expanding the air quality monitoring network in Delhi-NCR since 2015.

The air quality in the national capital has remained in the 'very poor' or the 'severe' category on most days in November so far.
Representational image of Delhi air pollution (Photo: PTI)

New Delhi: The Commission for Air Quality Management (CAQM) has recommended strengthening of the air quality monitoring network in the national capital region (NCR) to identify pollution hotspots and assess the transboundary movement of pollution.

The recommendation is part of a policy formulated by the panel to curb air pollution in Delhi-NCR. The CAQM noted that there has been considerable progress in expanding the air quality monitoring network in Delhi-NCR since 2015.

The region has a total of 146 monitoring stations at present, of which 65 are manual and 81 real-time.

There are 50 air quality monitoring stations (both manual and real-time) in Delhi, 11 in Gurugram, 8 in Ghaziabad, 12 in Gautam Buddh Nagar, five in Faridabad, and four in Baghpat and three each in Jhajjar, Sonipat and Rohtak.

Alwar, Bharatpur, Bhiwani, Bulandshahr, Charkhi Dadri, Hapur, Jind, Karnal, Mahendragarh, Meerut, Muzaffarnagar, Panipat, Rewari, Shamli, Mewat and Palwal have a total of 146 air quality monitoring stations. “Nearly a quarter of all the real-time air quality monitors in the country are in Delhi-NCR. However, there is an asymmetry in the distribution of monitors.

“Most monitors are concentrated in urban centres. While 50 per cent of the real-time monitors are located in Delhi, the remaining are distributed mainly in the four cities of Faridabad, Gautam Buddh Nagar, Ghaziabad and Gurugram,” the panel said.

The other districts of NCR have only one real-time monitor each. Until some time ago, several districts did not have any monitors at all, including manual ones. Of the total 65 manual stations in NCR, only 20 have PM2.5 monitors.

“Further strengthening of the monitoring grid in the NCR region requires a roadmap. Delhi has a sufficient number of regulatory monitors and needs to focus on quality control of the data and its dissemination. The rest of NCR will require further strengthening of the grid,” read the policy document issued by the CAQM on Wednesday.

“The multiple monitoring objectives include short and long-term air quality trends in different land uses; air quality gradient in the urban area, establishing compliance with the air quality target; assessing exposures in local environments and pollution hotspots; disseminating daily pollution alerts to the public and for emergency measures; and assessing the transboundary movement of pollution,” it said.

The panel said the Air Quality Early Warning System’ (AQEWS) and Decision Support System (DSS) should be further expanded to cover the entire NCR for better and more informed decision-making. The Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology had recently developed AQEWS which provides a dynamic daily air quality forecast for Delhi-NCR.

This enables advance decisions on emergency action during periods of anticipated adverse air quality. Recently, the AQEWS was integrated with DSS for effective air quality management in Delhi-NCR. DSS provides both qualitative and quantitative information regarding the contribution of different emission sectors in the region, including biomass-burning in neighbouring states.

S N Tripathi, steering committee member, National Clean Air Programme said the focus on strengthening the quality of air pollution data and filling gaps through sensor-based monitoring to cover rural and peri-urban areas will help authorities make evidence-driven decisions for better mitigation and abatement measures.

The policy, unveiled on Wednesday, lists sector-wise action plans to curb air pollution in Delhi-NCR in the next five years. It comes into effect immediately.

According to the policy, all thermal power plants located within a 300-kilometre radius of Delhi will have to ensure compliance with emission standards according to the deadline set by the Union environment ministry. The policy talks about phasing out diesel-run auto-rickshaws in Gurugram, Faridabad, Gautam Buddh Nagar and Ghaziabad by December 31, 2024, and the remaining districts in NCR by December 31, 2026.

Only Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) and electric autos will be registered in NCR from January 1, 2023.

Fuels pumps in Delhi-NCR will not give fuel to vehicles not having a valid pollution-under-check certificate from January 1, 2023, it said, adding the use of coal in the industrial application will be banned from January 1, 2023.

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