In the wake of slight improvement in the Delhi-NCR region's air quality, Environment Minister Harsh Vardhan today asked people not to panic and said that the Graded Response Action Plan must be implemented "earnestly and meticulously" by the concerned state governments. The Minister stressed that for the first time, this year, a "focused" approach has been adopted to deal with an emergency-like situation through the Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP). A task force has been set up to review the air quality in Delhi-NCR well in advance, Harsh Vardhan said. "The people of Delhi need not panic, as several steps are being taken by the Government to mitigate air pollution," Harsh Vardhan said, while emphasising that air quality has been improving over the last two days. "Focused attention at the highest level has been ensured through committees headed by the union minister, minister of state, environment ministry and its secretary," he said. The minister said that there have been review meetings with concerned state governments and agencies and stressed that crop residue and stubble burning have been discussed in detail. Harsh Vardhan stressed that as a part of advance planning and special intervention, 40 monitoring teams of Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) have been deployed since September 1, 2017, to give feedback on the ground situation and air polluting activities in Delhi. "A systemic response mechanism was put in place for the last one year and regular alerts were conveyed to all stakeholders," the minister said. Additionally, special focus has been trained on monitoring the situation at specific hotspots such as Anand Vihar, ITO, Punjabi Bagh and DTU, he said. Specific interventions have been suggested from time to time, as well as various directions have also been issued to various implementation agencies, he said. The minister said that the short-term measures that have been taken to mitigate the problem are enforcement of a ban on diesel gen-sets, brick kilns, stone crushers, hot mix plants and prohibition of entry of trucks with non-essential supplies to Delhi. He said enhanced parking fee and capacity augmentation of public transport has also been done while metro has increased its frequency and number of coaches by 25 per cent. Watering over unpaved roads to contain road dust is being carried out on a large scale while fire tenders, water tankers of corporations have also been pressed into service for sprinkling water, he said. The environment ministry has already formed a high-level committee recently to monitor the situation. A meeting of the central committee chaired by environment secretary with chief secretaries of all concerned states was also convened recently.
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