Visible improvement in Delhi’s air quality, long way to go to achieve clean air: EPCA

EPCA’s report card says that the Delhi-NCR region must not lose the momentum in this fight to breathe clean air

By DTE Staff
Published: Wednesday 28 February 2018
The right to breathe is fundamental, said the EPCA chairperson. Credit: Vikas Choudhary/CSE
The right to breathe is fundamental, said the EPCA chairperson. Credit: Vikas Choudhary/CSE The right to breathe is fundamental, said the EPCA chairperson. Credit: Vikas Choudhary/CSE

Delhi and its surrounding region’s air quality is showing the first signs of improvement, but the air is not even close to being called clean yet – says an assessment report released today by the Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority (EPCA).  The report comes as the winter of 2017-18 draws to a close, and after a critical period in the fight against air pollution in Delhi-NCR.

“This reduction in pollution levels shows that we can make a difference. But the air is not completely clean yet. We must not lose the momentum in our fight for clean air. We must not lose sight of the fact that right to breathe is fundamental,” said Bhure Lal, EPCA chairperson, while releasing the Report Card.

“The air in this region of the National Capital is so polluted and toxic, that all our combined efforts have reduced pollution merely from the severe-severe plus category to poor-very poor category,” pointed out EPCA member Sunita Narain. “Remember, very poor category is still deadly. According to the health index of the government, prolonged exposure to this level of pollution is hazardous, even for healthy people. This means that all of us breathing this air are exposed to toxins and this will impact our health and more importantly, health of our children. Therefore, we need to do much more to reduce pollution and bring it to the good-moderate level,” she added.

The battle against air pollution needs a comprehensive plan, credible monitoring, enhanced implementation and rigorous enforcement, says the EPCA Report Card.

Data from October 1, 2017 to February 25, 2018 points to a slight improvement in air quality levels. An analysis of the Central Pollution Control Board’s air quality index data shows that the number of days in the severe category has decreased for each month in comparison to the previous year, except in January. In February, 16 per cent of the days were in the moderately poor category, compared to 8 per cent in the previous year.

“Overall, there is a small difference – the number of days in the poor-very poor category have increased as compared to the very poor-severe category,” says Narain.

But there is a word of caution as comparison of PM2.5 concentrations at four monitoring stations – Mandir Marg, Punjabi Bagh, R K Puram and Anand Vihar – show that the impact is not visible yet. Pollution levels remain high. The data on the hot-spot pollution areas, in particular Anand Vihar, also shows that pollution levels are extremely high – and do not show any sign of improvement.

“The Graded Response Action Plan and the emergency actions that were taken have had an impact. However, we must not lose sight of the challenge,” Narain said.

The agenda for future

The report of EPCA lists the actions that have already been taken and tracks those that need to be taken. Lal said that actions which needed to be taken immediately included augmenting public transport, move towards cleaner fuels, implement directions for not burning of garbage and dust management and subsidising farmer’s technologies.

Key work to be done from March 2018:


Work to be done



Complete setting up network of monitoring stations and link all

State pollution boards/CPCB


Ensure that all actions are continuously taken as listed in GRAP for moderate category

All state governments with regular monitoring by chief secretaries


Notify the Comprehensive Action Plan



Implement the Comprehensive Action Plan through regular monitoring and enforcement



Implement the directions of the Hon’ble Supreme Court of August 10, on PUC

MORTH and state transport departments


Ensure that trucks move to completed and commissioned EPE/WPE and that orders of Hon’ble Supreme Court on diversion of non-destined trucks and ECC are strictly adhered to.

State governments


Ensure RFID is installed as per the directions of the Hon’ble Supreme Court by onset of winter 2018



Implement actions on public transport, non-motorised transport and car restraint as listed and agreed upon with timelines in CAP

MOEF&CC to ensure implementation


Enforce directions of Hon’ble Supreme Court on pet coke/FO ban and implement standards for SOX and NOx in all industries and facilitate shift to cleaner fuel

State pollution control boards


Ensure that all industries are equipped with online monitoring, which is made available publicly

State pollution control boards


Ensure that there is strict regulation/ban on polluting industries operating from non-conforming areas

EPCA is working on report on this and will discuss with all stakeholders on how to proceed


Expediting emission standards for thermal power plants

Hon’ble Court to give directions


Ensure operation of gas based Bawana (unit 1) from March 1, 2018 and closure of coal based Dadri power plant in winter 2018

Delhi Power Department


Implement the recommendations of the High Level Task Force on crop burning

MOEF&CC is the designated nodal agency

“It is important not to lose the momentum for clean air. It is also important to realise that even with all this attention and work done, we have only improved air quality marginally and that levels remain at poor-very poor category. This is hazardous for health,” added Narain.

“We say this because current levels of air pollution are unacceptable and are a serious health issue. The damage to human health because of toxins in air must not be under-estimated,” says the EPCA report card.

 “This report card presents the actions taken till now and the work that needs to be done. It is designed to keep us on track, so that we can win this battle for our right to clean air. It is clear that all governments are extremely cognizant of the challenge and are taking measures to reduce deadly air pollution. But it is equally clear that we will need much more enhanced action and at much greater speed,” she said.

Actions taken in 2017-18

Clean air governance

  • A network of extensive and robust monitoring stations in public domain.
  • Notification and implementation of Graded Response Action Plan.
  • Supreme Court (SC) directive on a single Comprehensive Action Plan for Delhi and NCR. The court had directed the environment ministry to notify the action plan. 

Fuel and vehicles

  • Supreme Court banned the sale of BS-III vehicles in India from April 1, 2017.
  • Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas decided to advance supply of BS-VI fuels in Delhi.
  • Government decided to advance BS-VI fuel-emission to April 2020.
  • SC has made valid PUC certificate mandatory for annual vehicle insurance nation-wide
  • Supreme Court directed for introduction of automatic on-line network to link PUC data centres and mandate prepayment of PUC fees for proper recording of tests. 

Power plants and industries

  • Permanent closure of Badarpur as of July 2018.
  • Operationalisation of gas based Bawana plant (one unit) by March 1, 2018, which may now not need coal-based Dadri to run in winter.
  • Ban on pet coke and FO in the region.
  • Setting up of Sox, Nox standards, which will require industry to install pollution control or switch to gas. 

Crop burning and brick kiln

  • A high-level committee, set up by the PM office, drafted a plan for crop burning in Haryana and Punjab. The plan has been accepted; budget 2018 has made provision. MOEF&CC has been appointed nodal agency to ensure implementation.
  • About 1,500 brick kiln owners have submitted affidavits to EPCA undertaking commitment to shift to improved-zigzag kiln technology by April 2018. Roughly 600 have converted. By July 1, 2018, only zigzag technology compliant brick kilns will be allowed to operate. 

Subscribe to Daily Newsletter :
Related Stories
Related Video

India Environment Portal Resources :

Comments are moderated and will be published only after the site moderator’s approval. Please use a genuine email ID and provide your name. Selected comments may also be used in the ‘Letters’ section of the Down To Earth print edition.