Graded Response Action Plan

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Graded Response Action Plan

Application: GS Paper-2 and GS Paper- 3

Why GRAP was in news?

Recently, Environment Pollution (Prevention & Control) Authority (EPCA) has directed Delhi and neighboring States to implement air pollution control measures under very poor and severe category air quality of the Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP) from 15th October 2020.

What is GRAP (Graded Response Action Plan)?

  • The action plan which was formulated in 2016 and notified in 2017 for Delhi and the National Capital Region (NCR).
  • The plan was formulated after several meetings were held by Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority (EPCA) with state government representatives and experts.
  • These are institutionalized measures to be taken when air quality deteriorates, hence works only as an emergency measure.
  • GRAP includes the measures which will be taken by different government agencies to prevent worsening of Air Quality of Delhi-NCR and prevent PM10 and PM2.5 levels to go beyond the ‘moderate’ national Air Quality Index (AQI) category.
  • If air quality reaches the severe+ stage, GRAP talks about shutting down schools and implementing the odd-even road-space rationing scheme.
  • The plan requires action and coordination among 13 different agencies in Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Rajasthan (NCR areas)

As such, the plan does not include action by various state governments to be taken throughout the year to tackle industrial, vehicular and combustion emissions.

Image Credit: Hindustantimes

What constitutes essential items?

The essential services include health care facilities, elevators, railway services, Delhi Metro, airports and interstate bus terminals and the data center run by the National Informatics Centre. The DPCC also directed power companies to ensure an uninterrupted power supply to the consumers.

What about industries?

  • Industries, particularly in the Red and Orange category, will provide an undertaking that they will use only authorized fuel and will not operate without adequate pollution control measures.
  • Authorities categorize industries according to pollution index scores worked out based on the emissions, effluents, hazardous wastes generated and consumption of resources.

Image Credit: Times of India

Why there is the need of GRAP in Delhi?

Stubble Burning: It is a traditional practice in Punjab and Haryana to clean off the rice chaff to prepare the fields for winter sowing.Shifting of Jet Stream: The southward shift of subtropical jet stream happens causing a westward wind pattern in the northern part of India and thus there is the spread of pollutants.Stagnant Lower Level Winds: As the winter season sets in, dust particles and pollutants in the air become unable to move. Due to stagnant lower level winds, pollutants get locked in the air and affect weather conditions, resulting in smog. What is Environment Pollution Control Authority? It was notified in 1998 under the Environment Protection Act, 1986.EPCA is a Supreme Court mandated body tasked with taking various measures to tackle air pollution in the National Capital Region.  

How GRAP has helped?

  • The biggest success of GRAP has been in fixing accountability and deadlines.
  • For each action to be taken under a particular air quality category, executing agencies are clearly marked.
  • In a territory like Delhi, where a multiplicity of authorities has been a long-standing impediment to effective governance, this step made a crucial difference.

Air Quality in Delhi:

  • The Air Quality Index (AQI) of Delhi has improved within the ‘poor’ category.
  • As per a forecast from the Central government’s System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting And Research (SAFAR) the AQI is expected to stay in the higher end of ‘poor’ to the lower end of ‘very poor’ category for the following days.
  • During the lockdowns, Delhi saw among the cleanest air since comprehensive records have been kept since 2015.

Impact of Lockdown on the Ambient Air Quality

  • PM2.5 reduced by 24 per cent during the pre-lockdown phase and further reduced by almost 50 per cent during the lockdown phases as compared to levels observed during 2019.
  • PM10 reduced by a massive 60 per cent, with NO2 levels falling by 64 per cent, Benzene by 62 per cent and SO2 by 35 per cent, during the second phase of lockdown as compared to levels in the same time period in 2019
Severe+ or Emergency- (PM 2.5 over 300 µg/cubic meter 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 minimize 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.Maximize power generation from natural gas to reduce generation from coal.Encourage public transport, with differential rates.More frequent mechanized 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.Mechanized sweeping on roads with heavy traffic and water sprinkling.Strictly enforce ban on firecrackers.  

Way Forward

  • The economy is already under stress post-lockdown so the combined effort is to ensure that there is no further disruption.
  • Pollution will make Covid-19 “more dangerous” and therefore, there must be zero-tolerance for air pollution during this period, as it will come at “huge human health cost”.


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