Delhi breathed relatively easy as air quality remained outside the ‘severe plus’ category for third day straight, prompting authorities to withdraw the ban on entry of trucks and restore parking fees to usual rates.
The Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority lifted the ban on construction activities as well but Lt Governor Anil Baijal kept it in abeyance as the matter was pending with the National Green Tribunal.
However, the NGT, which had separately issued an order banning entry of trucks (except those carrying essential commodities), has posted the matter for hearing on Friday.
The transport department issued a notification lifting the ban following the LG’s nod, thereby allowing thousands of trucks, which were stuck at the entry points, to enter the city.
System of Air Quality And Weather Forecasting And Research has forecast that air quality may dip over the weekend due to incursion of moisture and fall in inversion layer which will keep pollutants trapped near the surface.
The air quality index at 363, was in the ‘very poor’ zone. The volume (24-hour rolling average) of ultrafine particulates PM2.5 and PM10 were 184 and 299 microgram per cubic metre respectively.
The civic bodies and the Delhi Metro restored the quadrupled parking rates to normal with immediate effect.
The EPCA separately wrote to the chief secretaries of Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Haryana informing them that hot mix plants can now be allowed to operate.
However, measures enforced under the GRAP’s ‘severe’ category including the closure of the Badarpur thermal power plant, ban on brick kilns, and stone crushers will remain in force.
The measures, part of the Graded Response Action Plan, were enforced on November 8 after pollution levels spiked, hitting the emergency category, accompanied by thick smog.
The EPCA said the measures can be lifted with “immediate effect” as the prevailing air quality does not warrant such tough action.
“We are watching the situation very carefully and we have been informed by the India Meteorological Department and the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology that pollution may rise again because of increased moisture in the air in the coming days.
“However, if the conditions continue to improve and air quality stabilises, we will review the measures under the ‘severe’ category and inform you accordingly,” EPCA chairman Bhure Lal wrote.
The NGT directed the Delhi government to submit data of ambient air quality in the national capital and said it would consider its ban on construction and industrial activity in the National Capital Region on that basis.
A bench headed by NGT Chairperson Justice Swatanter Kumar said it would take up the matter on Friday and till then its order would be in force.
Image: A man with his face covered with a scarf rides his scooter on a smoggy day in Delhi. The air quality index at 363, was in the ‘very poor’ zone. Photograph: Cathal McNaughton/Reuters