The National Capital is among metros oscillating between severe AQI levels and the acceptable limits. Richa Tyagi cites enforced measures for damage control in the absence of a concrete solution.

From start of the new year on January 01, 2024, the GRAP Sub-Comittee unanimously decided to revoke Stage III keeping in view the “disruptive” nature of restrictions, impacting a large number of stakeholders and the public as well. Around this period, the AQI levels marked a significant improvement. According to the forecast, Delhi’s AQI showed continuous improvement. It was recorded at 346 at 4 O’clock on January 01, 2024, in a much-needed respite. This figure is notably 55 AQI points below the threshold for invoking GRAP Phase-III action (Delhi AQI 401-450). Transport Minister, Kailash Gahlot, admitted to recognising the urgency of the situation, the severe pollution conditions in Delhi that led to the implementation of GRAP by CAQM. The Supreme Court is closely monitoring the pollution situation in the city and has warned that ‘any laxity in this regard may invite strictures.

However, actions under Stage I and Stage II will remain invoked in a manner to ensure the AQI levels do not slip to “severe” in the coming days. Stage III, and Stage IV had also been implemented, indicating the severity of the pollution crisis in Delhi, where the AQI had surged beyond the critical threshold of 450, categorising it as severe plus (+). CAQM Sub-Committee for operationalisation of actions under GRAP in its earlier meetings had invoked actions under Stage I, Stage II, Stage III and Stage IV of revised GRAP on October 06, October 21, November 02, and November 05 in 2023 respectively. On periodic review of the air quality of Delhi and forecast provided by IMD/ IITM, the Sub-Committee had revoked actions under Stage IV and Stage III of GRAP on November 18 and November 28 respectively. These are a testimony to close monitoring and swift action on one hand while inability to stem the root cause on the other hand.


Missing the mark

The political slugfest as is the case always had ruling party Aam Aadmi Party leader Sushil Gupta comment on the Supreme Court’s remarks regarding the AQI in Delhi-NCR. He is known to have drawn attention to the  Haryana government’s failure to implement a workable solution for stubble burning. This includes the absence of proposals for providing subsidies to farmers for stubble management or the establishment of machinery to address the issue citing a failure in the long-term strategy to deal with the AQI menace.


The GRAP effect

If GRAP is enforced for long, it is evident that there will be a domino effect. Sanjay Samrat, the leader of the Delhi Taxi and Transporters Association is known to have questioned the enforcement. He stated, “What is the purpose of charging fees for Pollution Under Control (PUC) certificates when they seemingly hold no practical utility.” He argues that pollution in Delhi primarily results from sources like stubble burning and construction activities, and vehicles holding valid PUC certificates should not face bans.

In a press statement, he also highlighted the significant presence of commercial vehicles with All India Tourist Permits in Delhi and stressed that the recurrent bans disrupt their operations every year. Admitting to the widespread economic repercussions, stakeholders like Samrat have raised questions on both the intent and the outcome.

A daily commuter Satyam expressed his frustration and said that the sudden ban on BS-III petrol and BS-IV diesel LMVs in Delhi is extremely worrying. The lives of citizens have been disrupted to a great extent due to a lack of proper clarification and immediate implementation of the orders. Clear communication and a thorough review process are essential to ensure that any regulatory changes are well understood and implemented in a way that minimises inconvenience to the public.

On the implementation front, officials from both the Public Works Department (PWD) and the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) within their respective engineering departments highlighted further lapses like the non-receipt of an official order imposing a construction ban. An MCD representative has publically expressed concerns about the potential duration of the ban as per reports. It is not just Delhi, Mumbai AQI levels are not far behind to give a perspective. However, the Maharashtra state government with the civic body BMC is looking at different ways to tackle the issue. It relies on sprinklers and water tankers to keep the dust particulate emissions under check. Such proactive measures are the need of the hour and need to be dabbled with more pro actively for visible improvement in the near term while efforts are undertaken to find a long-term solution.


Role of OEMs and tier suppliers

It is also true that automotive manufacturers and suppliers have crucial roles to play in improving air quality and reducing air pollution in NCR during the implementation of GRAP Stages.

Original Equipment Manufacturers have played their part wholeheartedly by complying with the Bharat Stage VI – Phase 2 (RDE norms) most recently. They continue to invest in Research and Development (R&D) to innovate and develop cleaner technologies which include a mix of BEVs, gas-based solutions and Hydrogen. These innovations with the technology at hand are promising. The effect will be more visible as fleets decarbonise. The stakeholders are also actively pursuing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) which include creating an ecosystem for a circular economy. The scrappage through dedicated centres is a testimony.

An industry stakeholder on the condition of anonymity said that the new telematics measures aim to enhance fleet operations and transportation efficiency. Monitoring idle time, controlling AC usage, curbing engine over-revving, and scoring drivers based on eco-friendly practices enhance safety, fuel efficiency, and curb pollution as an example.

He especially emphasised promoting EVs in State Transport Undertaking (STU) operated buses and limiting private vehicles on roads as the other measures. An online infrastructure for EV charging, with route-based suggestions, will promote the widespread adoption of electric vehicles for a green transportation ecosystem, he opined.

Suppliers are backing the OEMs too as they are critical to the finished goods being developed in compliance with the stipulated norms. Many are going beyond compliance to stay ahead of the curve. The role of suppliers of advanced emission control technologies, including catalytic converters, particulate filters, and exhaust gas recirculation systems is well underlined. These technologies are essential for reducing emissions from vehicles. They are ensuring rigorous testing and quality control measures to follow up or maximise the performance of these technologies in reducing emissions.



The way forward Air Quality Index (AQI) levels in Delhi are alarmingly worsening year after year. It is the same every winter. The harsh reality is that the political nerve centre continues to grapple with it with no concrete solution in sight. Given the severity of the Delhi  National Capital Region (NCR), the Commission for Air Quality Management (CAQM) enforced stage III of the Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP). GRAP is a comprehensive action plan designed to address air pollution in the region. Stage III entailed a stringent set of measures to reduce the emission of air pollutants and mitigate the impact of air pollution on public health at large. The decision was taken on December 22, 2023, and rolled out with immediate effect for the NCR to prevent further deterioration of air quality.

Collaborative and well-coordinated efforts to effectively implement GRAP measures are critical to meet the desired outcome. Now that GRAP Stage III and IV have been withdrawn, however, it signals the need for sustained collaborative efforts to tackle the root causes of air pollution in the national capital. Addressing stubble burning, enhancing public awareness, and implementing long-term solutions are imperative. A holistic approach involving government bodies, corporations, commuters, and environmental non-profit organisations is essential to achieve lasting improvements in the AQI levels. Stakeholders must build on the momentum and work towards a cleaner and sustainable future for Delhi and other states grappling with haze leading to poor visibility and a fogged road map both!

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