An action plan with specific measures to be implemented as the air quality worsens with the progress of winter must be prepared for Calcutta, air quality management specialists have said.
The action plan — a graded response action plan has already been prepared for Delhi — will list the immediate measures that have to be taken when the air quality drops from “moderate” to “poor”, from “poor” to “very poor”, and from “very poor” to “severe”.
Delhi’s action plan states that when the air quality worsens to “moderate” or “poor” from “satisfactory” and remains so for at least 48 hours, only trucks registered after 2005 are allowed to enter the city. Traffic cops are deployed in “vulnerable” areas to ensure smooth flow.
When the air quality drops to “very poor” from “poor”, use of diesel generators and use of coal and firewood in hotels and open eateries are stopped. When it further worsens and stays severe for at least 48 hours with extremely high PM2.5 concentration, entry of trucks, except those carrying essential commodities, are stopped. Also, all construction activities are stopped and even schools may be shut down.
“It is called a graded response action plan because there are different steps that have to be added with every fall in air quality standards,” said Anumita Roy Chowdhury, an air quality management specialist.
“Calcutta must prepare its own graded response action plan. The National Green Tribunal had asked all non-attainment cities to frame such action plans through an order in October 2018,” said Roy Chowdhury, who is the executive director of the Delhi-based Centre for Science and Environment (CSE).
The air quality at most monitoring stations in the city has already touched the “poor” and “very poor” levels. At one station, it has touched the “severe” level. Bulletins issued for Calcutta by the Central Pollution Control Board at 4pm on Friday and Saturday, based on the average air quality of all seven monitoring stations of the city over the previous 24 hours, showed the air quality was “poor”.
An official of the state pollution control board said a graded response action plan for Calcutta was under preparation. But he could not say when it would be ready.
“We are working on a graded response plan for Calcutta. But it will take some time. It will be difficult to say by when it will be ready,” said the official.
Roy Chowdhury said the graded response was like an emergency response, meant to ensure that the pollution was kept under control.
“Systemic changes such as phasing out of old commercial vehicles take time, which is why an emergency graded response plan is required,” she said.
Air quality management specialists also said the emergency action plan should continue parallel to long-term measures like stopping use of coal at roadside eateries, switching to cleaner fuel for public transport and phasing out commercial vehicles aged 15 years or older.