ALSO READDeadline for 300 thermal plants on adoption of air pollution norms extended Air pollution report card Firecracker ban: If the SC move reduces air pollution, how will we know? Beware Delhi! Prepare for smog again, stubble burning has begun Bad air, water kills: At 2.5 mn, India tops list for pollution-linked deaths
Even as Delhi reels under heightened air pollution post the Diwali festivities, millions of vehicles registered in Delhi continue to potentially flout basic pollution norms. Among other rules — most of which have been made stringent after the national capital consistently started ranking as among the most polluted metropolises on Earth — a valid pollution under check (PUC) certification is a must for all vehicles who want to get their car insurance renewed. A report by Hindustan Times showed that companies and associated vehicle dealers in Delhi continue to give out renewal papers without pollution certificates. It further adds that renewing such licenses online is even easier as the companies involved do not even ask about a PUC. The responsibility of implementing the order now lies with the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways (MORTH), which has now been asked by the Supreme Court-empowered Environment Pollution Control Authority (EPCA) to set up PUC checking units at all fuel stations across the national capital region. The task may prove gargantuan as Delhi has more than 10 million registered vehicles but only 1,004 PUC centres. A strikingly high number of vehicles — almost 5.56 million ones — need to get new PUC certificates every quarter as they meet only BS-III emission standards or even less. BS-IV vehicles, on the other hand, need to get PUC conducted annually. While MORTH has asked for more time to institute checking facilities in fuel stations, the growing public debate on Delhi air post Diwali is expected to see the EPCA refuse any extension, a senior Environment Ministry official told Business Standard. Also, out of 13.7 lakh emission data analysed for Delhi, nearly 20 per cent of tests have recorded zero values, showed a survey on PUC centres across Delhi-NCR conducted by the EPCA. After the Supreme Court banned the sale of firecrackers in National Capital Region (NCR) a week before Diwali, the consensus in the government is that basic pollution levels have significantly come down. However, there seems to be a difference in opinion over the rate of fall in pollution and whether a tougher ban should be suggested to the Supreme Court for next year, the official mentioned above told Business Standard. Recently, the Environment Ministry had called for a press conference on the issue but cancelled it without proper cause.
Senior sources mentioned this was because of inconclusive data from ministry bodies about the extent of fall in pollution.The incidence of harmful airborne substances mapped by the air quality index the morning after Diwali stopped at 340 this year as compared to 445 it had touched back in 2016. Interestingly the EPCA has said this year that there is no need of imposing 'emergency' level measures, which became effective when the pollution is categorised as extreme, however, there are more challenges. Recently, the Ministry had been rapped by the Supreme Court for not finalising pollution emission standards for industries using pet coke and furnace oil in the national capital region and slapped a cost of Rs 2 lakh on it. The SC has now asked why the standards were not finalised despite its earlier direction that it should be done on or before June 30 this year. Apart from vehicular pollution and crackers, the vast majority of pollution in the NCR region is due to burning of crops in neighbouring states of Haryana, Punjab and to a smaller degree Uttar Pradesh. Every year in October, before the onset of winter, millions of tones of agricultural stubble is burnt by the farmers in northern India. The condition of Delhi's air quality has worsened after the crops are being burned during the harvest season. It is estimated that around 35 million tonnes of stubble is burnt in Punjab and Haryana alone.