The Commission for Air Quality Management in the National Capital Region and Adjoining Areas ("CAQM") has issued the revised Graded Response Action Plan ("GRAP") for the National Capital Region of Delhi ("NCR") under the provisions of the Commission for Air Quality Management in National Capital Region and Adjoining Areas Act, 2021 ("Act"). The revised guidelines will come into effect from 01 October, 2022. The Supreme Court of India had directed CAQM in December, 2021 to invite suggestions from the general public and experts for finding permanent solutions to the air pollution menace. In compliance with the order CAQM has issued the revised GRAP based on recommendations by its expert group, thus replacing the plan released in 2017.

The revised GRAP provides an action plan to address air pollution in Delhi-NCR based on four different stages of adverse air quality. Stage – I denotes 'poor' air quality (Air Quality Index is from 201 to 300); Stage - II denotes 'very poor' air quality (Air Quality Index is from 301 to 400); Stage – III denotes 'severe' air quality (Air Quality Index is from 401 to 450); and Stage – IV denotes 'severe+' air quality (Air Quality Index exceeds >450) respectively. For each stage of adverse air quality, GRAP prescribes different measures to deal with various sources of pollution along with the names of agencies responsible for the implementation of such measures.

It is noteworthy that restrictive measures prescribed under the subsequent stages of adverse air quality will be implemented in addition to the action already being taken under the previous stages. This means that when the air quality reaches 'severe+' stage, steps taken under the previous stages, i.e., 'poor', 'very poor' and 'severe' will continue to be implemented and all measures mentioned in GRAP will become effective until air the quality improves.

Mentioned below are certain important measures prescribed under the various stages of GRAP:

Air Quality

Prescribed Measures

Stage I – 'poor' air quality

  • Prohibition on construction and demolition activities at plots equal to or more than 500 sqm which have not registered for remote monitoring with relevant authority.
  • Strict vigilance and enforcement of norms to ensure pollution under control in vehicles. Vehicles with visible emissions will be impounded and / or levied maximum penalty.
  • Strict penal/ legal action against non-compliant and illegal industrial units.
  • Use of only approved fuel by industries and stringent action against violations in this regard.
  • Strict enforcement of all pollution control regulations applicable for brick kilns and industries.
  • Stringent enforcement of emission norms in thermal power plants (located within 300 km radius of Delhi) and strict actions against non-compliance.
  • ·Power distribution companies to ensure minimum power supply interruptions in Delhi NCR.
  • Ensuring that diesel generator ("DG") sets are not used as regular source of power supply.
  • Spreading public awareness regarding social media and mobile applications for reporting air pollution incidents and for quick redressal of these complaints.

Stage II – 'very poor' air quality

  • No use of coal/firewood in tandoors in hotel, restaurants and open eateries. These businesses should ensure use of electricity or clean gas fuel based appliances.
  • Ensuring uninterrupted power supply to discourage use of generator sets.
  • Ban on use of DG sets except for emergent and essential services including medical services, railway, metro, projects of national importance and telecommunication/data services. The regulated use of DG sets will be allowed for industrial sector in accordance with directions issued by CAQM on 08 February, 2022. However, these restrictions will not apply on operation of CNG/PNG/LPG fired generators in any sector.
  • Enhancement in parking fees to discourage private transport and augmentation of public transport facilities.

Stage III – 'severe' air quality

  • ·Strict ban on construction and demolition activities in Delhi NCR except for certain specified type of projects. This restriction, however, will not apply on non-polluting or non-dust generating activities in construction projects.
  • In case of industrial operations:
    • For industrial areas with PNG infrastructure and supply, industries using fuels that are not approved by CAQM will be closed.
    • For industrial areas without PNG infrastructure and supply, industries will be allowed to operate for a maximum of 5 days a week till 31 December, 2022.
    • With effect from 01 January, 2023, industries that are not running on approved fuels will be closed.
    • These restrictions will not apply for milk and dairy units and manufacturers of life saving equipments and drugs.
  • Closure of brick kilns and hot mix plants not operating on fuels approved by CAQM. Closure of stone crushers and mining activities.
  • Governments in Delhi NCR may impose restriction on BS III petrol and BS IV diesel four-wheeler light motor vehicles.

Stage IV – 'severe+' air quality

  • Four-wheeler diesel light motor vehicles will not be allowed in NCT of Delhi and districts in NCR bordering Delhi, except BS VI vehicles and vehicles used for essential / emergency services. There will also be restrictions on movement of trucks, medium and heavy-goods vehicles.
  • Closure of all industries in NCR not running on fuels approved by CAQM. These restrictions will not apply for milk and dairy units and manufacturers of life saving equipments and drugs.
  • Ban on construction and demolition activities in linear public projects such as highways, roads, flyovers, power transmission etc.
  • State Governments can decide on the requirement for public, municipal and private offices to work with 50% strength. Central Government can decide on this aspect for its offices.
  • State Governments may also consider additional emergency measures like closure of schools/colleges/ educational institutions, closure of non-emergency commercial activities, plying of vehicles on odd-even basis etc.

The revised GRAP prescribes pre-emptive measures for addressing air pollution menace as restrictions under each category will be invoked at least three days prior to the Air Quality Index reaching the projected levels in that stage. This system will be based on the dynamic air quality forecast system data provided by specialized agencies like Indian Meteorological Department and Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology to CAQM on a day-to-day basis. These revised measures are different from the earlier GRAP wherein action under each stage was taken after the levels of PM 2.5 and PM 10 reached specified limits.

Additionally, the revised GRAP also provides for a ban on the construction activities under 'severe' category (which in the earlier GRAP was imposed in 'severe+' category). Notably, there is no mention of air pollution caused by agriculture waste burning in Delhi NCR. GRAP also requires the Sub-Committee of CAQM and Chief Secretaries of state governments to regularly meet and review the implementation of these measures in their respective jurisdictions. The inter-regional cooperation among Delhi NCR airshed region will be critical for the successful implementation of GRAP.

It is expected that the revised GRAP, in addition to multiple directions issued by CAQM regarding permitted fuels, use of DG sets and comprehensive plan on menace of air pollution, will ensure consistency in air pollution management policies across Delhi NCR. However, it remains to be seen as to how the implementation of these policies will overcome the challenges and shortcomings identified in the earlier policies to address air pollution in Delhi NCR. More importantly, the proposed restrictions on BS-IV diesel vehicles which are less than 10 years old may also face some resistance.

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