‘Vehicles, dust major contributors to air pollution’ : The Tribune India

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The Tribune INTERVIEW

‘Vehicles, dust major contributors to air pollution’

Arvind Nautiyal, member secretary, Commission for Air Quality Management in National Capital Region and Adjoining Areas

‘Vehicles, dust major contributors to air pollution’


Air pollution in the Delhi-NCR has been a significant health and environmental concern. In an interview with Aksheev Thakur of The Tribune, Arvind Nautiyal, member secretary of the Commission for Air Quality Management (CAQM) in the National Capital Region and adjoining areas, discussed the growing issue of air pollution in Delhi-NCR and the measures being taken to mitigate it. The CAQM was established in 2021 to address the prevention and control of air pollution in Delhi-NCR.

Air Quality Shows Promising Improvement

In the last three years, there has certainly been a trajectory of improvement in air quality. In 2023, we recorded 206 days with an Air Quality Index below 200, marking a significant achievement.

Which major sectors are contributing to air pollution in the Delhi-NCR?

We have conducted an in-depth study to identify the sectors that are major contributors to air pollution in the region. Based on this study, we have developed a vision that engages stakeholders for the next six years, outlining necessary actions. Among the six to seven sectors identified, vehicular emissions and dust emerge as the primary contributors to air pollution. Dust particularly exacerbates the issue during summers. Additionally, stubble burning for two months, plastic and solid waste burning, construction and demolition waste, usage of diesel generator sets, and emissions from thermal power plants are significant factors contributing to air pollution in the region.

What are you doing to curb industrial pollution?

The industries in Delhi-NCR have to switch to clean energy fuels. Previously, coal was permitted for use in industries. However, we have since notified a list of approved fuels for industries in the NCR, mandating the switch to cleaner alternatives. There are over 7,000 industrial units in the region, and except for 300 units, all others are using clean fuels. Those remaining units either ceased operations voluntarily or were directed to shut down for non-compliance. Upon transitioning to cleaner fuels in accordance with the approved list, these units can resume their operations. This marks a significant achievement over the past two years in our efforts to combat air pollution.

What measures have been taken to provide access to cleaner fuels for industries?

There has been significant proliferation of Piped Natural Gas (PNG) infrastructure. Out of the 240 industrial areas in the Delhi-NCR region, 212 are now connected to PNG. At the establishment of the Commission for Air Quality Management in NCR and Adjoining Areas, only 150 industrial areas were connected to PNG, with some pockets lacking availability. We addressed this issue aggressively. Our plan is to have gas infrastructure covering the entire NCR by the end of 2024. PNG is a cleaner alternative, emitting fewer pollutants compared to conventional fuels like coal or diesel.

Are diesel generator (DG) sets being retrofitted with emission control devices?

We have launched a campaign to retrofit emission control devices on DG sets or transition to dual fuel systems (70 per cent natural gas and 30 per cent fuel). Increasing the use of natural gas will result in reduced emissions. The goal of this drive is to decrease particulate matter emissions by approximately 50-60 per cent. So far, we have completed around 8,000 retrofitments.

What measures are being taken to mitigate dust pollution?

I agree that there are cases where these measures are not being fully implemented, but overall there has been a noticeable improvement. We conduct regular inspections to ensure that construction materials are adequately covered. In the NCR, we have identified 60 road-owning agencies responsible for various road stretches. Each agency is mandated to establish a dust control and management cell as per the statutory requirements. Nodal officers have been appointed for these cells. For large construction projects (with a plot area equal to or greater than 500 sq m), remote inspections are conducted through a web portal called the construction and demolition portal. Additionally, there is provision for video fencing equipped with remote connectivity technology on the web portal, enabling effective and continuous monitoring of compliance with dust mitigation measures by project proponents. The list of dust control/mitigation measures also includes the use of anti-smog guns, water pills, water cannons, hoses, fire hydrants, sprinklers etc. These measures are aimed at minimising dust emissions and ensuring compliance with environmental regulations.

Going by statistics from recent years, has there been an improvement in Delhi-NCR’s air quality?

In the last three years, there has certainly been a trajectory of improvement in air quality. Our primary concern lies with particulate matter 2.5 and 10. In 2023, we recorded 206 days with an Air Quality Index below 200, marking a significant achievement. 

#Environment #Pollution


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