Four years on, GRAP yet to evolve

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Four years on, GRAP yet to evolve

  • Despite the Central Government’s directions nearly five years ago to “learn from experience” and “calibrate” the Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP) to control air pollution, the policy has not been revised to accommodate predictions.
  • GRAP is a set of measures to be taken to reduce air pollution depending on the current level of pollution. It was notified by the Union Environment Ministry in 2017 to fight air pollution, based on the SC directions.

What is the Graded Response Action Plan?

  • In 2016, the Supreme Court approved the implementation of a Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP) for Delhi and NCR.
  • Pursuant to this, the government notified the GRAP to be implemented through the Environment Pollution (Prevention & Control) Authority (EPCA).
  • GRAP was formulated after several rounds of meetings were held between the EPCA and state government representatives and domain experts.
  • Basically, GRAP is a plan to be implemented when the air quality deteriorates.
  • It is an emergency response plan, i.e., to be implemented only when the quality of air goes below a certain threshold.
  • It is to be noted that the plan is exclusive of the other measures taken by the various authorities during the course of the year. Those will continue and this is only an emergency plan.
  • The GRAP is incremental in nature, which means that depending on the air quality index (AQI), several steps and measures are to be taken by designated bodies/agencies.

Significance of GRAP

  • The GRAP is a response mechanism that brings together multiple stakeholders and authorities to respond to a deterioration in the air quality in Delhi-NCR.
  • The plan requires action and coordination among 13 different agencies in Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Rajasthan (NCR areas).
  • GRAP has been outlined in such a way that it fixes accountability and also gives deadlines. The actions to be taken and the implementing agency with the corresponding AQI level are enumerated neatly and clearly. There is also a clear demarcation of responsibilities.

Measures announced:

  • Severe+ or Emergency- (PM 2.5 over 300 µg/cubic metre or PM10 over 500 µg/cu. m. for 48+ hours):

  • Stop entry of trucks into Delhi (except essential commodities).

  • Stop construction work.

  • Introduce odd/even scheme for private vehicles and minimise exemptions.

  • Task Force to decide any additional steps including shutting of schools.

  • Severe- (PM 2.5 over 250 µg/cu. m. or PM10 over 430 µg/cu. m.):

  • Close brick kilns, hot mix plants, stone crushers.

  • Maximise power generation from natural gas to reduce generation from coal.

  • Encourage public transport, with differential rates.

  • More frequent mechanised cleaning of road and sprinkling of water.

  • Very Poor- (PM2.5 121-250 µg/cu. m. or PM10 351-430 µg/cu. m.):

  • Stop use of diesel generator sets.

  • Enhance parking fee by 3-4 times.

  • Increase bus and Metro services.

  • Apartment owners to discourage burning fires in winter by providing electric heaters during winter.

  • Advisories to people with respiratory and cardiac conditions to restrict outdoor movement.

  • Moderate to poor- (PM2.5 61-120 µg/cu. m. or PM10 101-350 µg/cu. m.):

  • Heavy fines for garbage burning.

  • Close/enforce pollution control regulations in brick kilns and industries.

  • Mechanised sweeping on roads with heavy traffic and water sprinkling.

  • Strictly enforce ban on firecrackers.

Challenges to GRAP

  • The Graded Action Plan was found to be a successful model of dealing with higher air pollution in cities where it’s a common problem.
  • However, it needs to be expanded to other areas of the country soon to solve similar air quality issues faced by them.
  • GRAP is currently implemented on NCR with more focus laid on Delhi.
  • The GRAP only lays out directions for what not to do.
  • But it doesn’t provide any options or alternatives to the problems like stubble burning in farms and the like.
  • The national authorities, including MoEFCC, should look into these details and provide the farmers with new technologies and strategies to prevent air pollution because of developmental activities.