A package of measures to reduce air pollution levels significantly in the National Capital Region
(NCR) around Delhi by the winter of 2018 is expected to be formulated soon and implemented within a specified time frame.
NCR covers the whole of the National Capital Territory-Delhi (NCT-Delhi) and certain districts of Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan, covering about 53,817 sq km.
A high-level task force, headed by Nripendra Misra, principal secretary to the prime minister, has been set up to evaluate the feasibility of these measures. The task force has the Cabinet secretary, secretaries of half a dozen ministries of the Union government, chief secretary of the Delhi government and a couple of environment experts as members.
The brief for the task force is to ensure that the winter of 2018 becomes pollution free. Remedial action, therefore, is likely in the next few months.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi is understood to have advised the task force that air pollution level of the NCR should improve to levels that prevail in any city of the developed world.
Among the measures that are likely to be implemented by the task force are complete shutdown of the Badarpur thermal plant, de-sulphurisation of thermal plants in areas adjoining the NCR, like Dadri, opening up of the Eastern Peripheral Expressway from January 2018 and a ban on the import of pet coke.
The opening of the Eastern Peripheral Expressway for use of vehicles will obviate the need for heavy commercial vehicles from entering NCT-Delhi before reaching destinations in the adjoining states of Rajasthan, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh. Vehicular emission accounts for about 30 per cent of air pollution in Delhi.
With heavy trucks not requiring to cross Delhi, the air quality in the Capital is expected to improve.
The extreme step of banning the import of pet coke, a highly pollutant industrial fuel, will be implemented after due consultation with current users. The use of pet coke has already been banned in most advanced countries.
Additionally, the task force is also in consultation with the governments of Punjab and Haryana to put in place a financial mechanism by which agricultural stubble burning is eliminated. The financial mechanism could envisage both investments in acquisition of implements that will prevent the need for stubble burning, causing air pollution.