Air Pollution

Emergency Action Plan for Delhi to kick inPriority 1


Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Various measures at different AQIs

Mains level: Measures undertaken to curb air pollution in the national capital.



  1. Burning of paddy straw every year during October and November and wheat straw during April in Punjab and Haryana are the major contributors of air pollution in Delhi-NCR, as the smoke travels towards the Capital.
  2. Satellite images from the NASA showed rampant stubble burning activity in Punjab and Haryana.
  3. NASA has stated that burning of crop residue in Punjab and Haryana has increased significantly over the past 10 days in and near Amritsar, Ambala, Karnal, Sirsa and Hisar.

Measure to counter Deteriorating Air Quality

  1. An emergency action plan will be implemented to combat air pollution that has begun to show a trend towards very poor category, a/c to the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB).
  2. Under the emergency plan called the Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP), stringent actions are implemented based on the air quality of the city.

GRAP measures based on air quality

[I]  Moderate to Poor category ( AQI: 101-300): 

  • Stopping garbage burning in landfills and other places, and enforcing all pollution control regulations in brick kilns and industries would be implemented.

[II] Very Poor category ( AQI: 301-400 ):

  • Stopping use of diesel generator sets, enhancing parking fees 3-4 times and increasing frequency of metro and buses would be implemented.

[III] Severe category ( AQI: 401-500):

  • increasing frequency of mechanized cleaning of roads, sprinkling of water on roads and identifying road stretches with high dust generation.

[IV] Severe Plus Emergency category (AQI above 500):

  •  Stopping entry of trucks into Delhi (except essential commodities), stopping construction activities and appointment of task force to take decision on any additional steps, including shutting of schools will be implemented.


Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP)

  1. The plan was prepared by the Supreme Court-mandated Environment Pollution Control Authority (EPCA).
  2. The job of ensuring implementation of the action plan will be EPCA’s under the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986, which will delegate the responsibility to the concerned departments.
  3. The plan puts governments under the lens and holds out the promise of improvement in air quality.
  4. The plan lays down stratified actions that are required to be taken as and when the concentration of pollutants, in this case particulate matter, reaches a certain level.
  5. It suggests various measures to be undertaken at different AQIs.
  6. The graded action plan will be implemented if PM2.5 levels stay over 300 micrograms per cubic metre and PM10 levels stay above 500 micrograms per cubic metre.

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