NEW DELHI: As the air quality across the National Capital Region (NCR) worsened to "severe-plus or emergency", which is expected to prevail for some time, the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) on Thursday imposed "severe" category restrictions, while directing the authorities to stay prepared for implementing the Odd-Even scheme.
The closure of brick kilns, hot mix plants and stone crushers, generator sets, along with other restrictions under 'severe' category will be effective till January 31, 2018, in the wake of the Asean summit to be held in Delhi between January 19-30, 2018, officials said.
Calling for "zero tolerance" against unauthorized industrial activities, a pollution control task force headed by member secretary CPCB also ordered closure of coal based industries, like Badarpur Power Plant from January 15-30, 2018, in view of the Asean summit.
However, the NCR would anyway see the "sever-plus" category restrictions under Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP) by Saturday onwards if the air quality remains under "emergency" category, officials said.
"Odd-even scheme, ban on construction and truck entry will be implemented in case the severe-plus situation prevails for 48 hours. We are observing the timeline. However till then severe category restrictions will stay in place anyway, at least till January 31," A. Sudhakar, member secretary, CPCB told IANS.
Delhi and surrounding regions had been reeling under "severe-plus or emergency" level air pollution since at least 2 a.m. on Thursday morning, since the major pollutant PM2.5 crossed the 300 unit barrier at all the locations across NCR.
"We have to control the ground level activities to control pollution because the meteorological activities are anyway not in our favor nor do we have any control over it. This is the best we can do," D. Saha, scientist CPCB, told IANS.
The task force has thus ordered NCR authorities to be ready to implement Odd-Even traffic rationing scheme if required.
CPCB has also ordered the NCR governments to intensify public transport services and increase frequency of water sprinkling and mechanized sweeping.
"Non operation of Diesel Generator sets along with other actions to be strictly ensured," task force ordered.
The CPCB's directions came after a task force meeting here that is entitled to implement the restriction under the GRAP.
As per the India Meteorological Department (IMD), Delhi received low wind speed, with moderate to dense fog towards the morning. The density of pollutants is expected to rise over time, officials said.
"The mixing height is very low but because the wind speed is also very low, the density of pollutants is suppose to increase over time," Shambhavi Shukla, a researcher at the Centre for Science and Environment and EPCA member, told IANS.
Delhi's Air Quality Index (AQI) was 469 on Thursday, considered "severe", a sharp decline against 359 considered "very poor" on Wednesday. The AQI of Ghaziabad was 500, on a scale of 0 to 500.
The major pollutant, PM2.5 or particles with diameter less than 2.5 micrometers across 21 regions in NCR was 301 units, while acoss 16 regions in Delhi it was 319 at 8 p.m., both "severe-plus".
Meanwhile, at 8 p.m. PM2.5 was most concentrated at Anand Vihar (478 units) in east Delhi, Vasundhara (493) in Ghaziabad, Sector 125 (475 units) in Noida, Delhi Technical University (427) in north Delhi, Punjabi Bagh (424) in west Delhi and R.K. Puram (337) in south Delhi -- about 19 times higher the international safe limit.
The international safe limit for PM2.5 is 25 microgrammes per cubic meters while the national standards keep the safe limit at 60 units.