No lessons learnt, GRAP rollback begins in Capital
CHOKING South body to drop hiked parking fees, ambiguity over ban on entry of trucks, construction; final decision to call off the emergency measures rests with EPCA, say experts
NEW DELHI: Just when Delhi’s air quality showed signs of slight improvement on Tuesday, government agencies got into a frenzy to get rid of emergency restrictions put in place to clean up the city’s air.
The South Delhi Municipal Corporation announced on Tuesday that it would go back to its usual parking rates of ₹20 per hour for cars and ₹10 per hour for two-wheelers from Wednesday.
This came despite the Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority (EPCA) stating that its November 7 directive to hike parking fees will continue “until further orders”.
Under the Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP), agencies have to increase parking rates four-fold whenever pollution levels enter the “very poor” zone. Other action include a ban on diesel generators, construction activities and the entry of trucks into the city.
Buses and the Metro have to ensure extra trips to encourage people to ditch private vehicles.
The decision to call off the emergency measures rests with EPCA.
“Agencies cannot lift any directive without fresh orders being issued by the pollution panel,” said Sunita Narain, EPCA member.
The SDMC’S decision on parking was taken after the matter was taken up during its standing committee meeting on Monday. The civic agency, it turns out, assumed that the parking fee directive was for seven days only.
“The directions were issued by the EPCA for a week. The period will get over on Wednesday night. From then, contractors would charge normal fees from customers. We are likely to issue a notice in this regard on Wednesday,” said Kamaljeet Sehrawat, mayor, SDMC.
The corporation’s commissioner Puneet Goel said the increased parking rates will be withdrawn in the next two days.
But the north and east Delhi municipal corporations have planned to continue with the directions till further orders.
CONFUSION OVER ENTRY OF TRUCKS
Not just parking, even the Delhi government appeared to be confused over the ban on entry of trucks.
Following EPCA’S directions, the transport department had banned the entry of trucks into the Capital on November 9. But it did so only for a period of three days.
After allowing more than a lakh trucks to enter Delhi and facing flak from EPCA, the transport department went into a huddle to issue a fresh notification on Tuesday.
It has now banned entry of trucks, except those carrying essential commodities, from Tuesday night “indefinitely.
BAN ON CONSTRUCTION ACTIVITIES
A number of agencies appeared to be puzzled as to whose decision they were bound to follow over the construction ban.
The North Delhi Municipal Corporation said it was following the orders of the L-G, who had convened a high-level meeting on November 8, order.
“We will lift the ban on construction activity once the air quality improves in a day or two. I don’t think we need anybody’s confirmation for that,” said Tilak Raj Kataria, standing committee chairman, North Delhi Municipal Corporation.
On the contrary, the east corporation claimed it was bound by the orders of the National Green Tribunal. “We have a NGT hearing scheduled for Thursday. Till then all its interim orders will continue,” an official said.
EPCA TO MEET STAKEHOLDERS
Even as stakeholders are stuck over jurisdictional formalities and rollback modalities, EPCA member Sunita Narain said the panel would meet stakeholders to clear confusion.
“I have spoken to the south corporation and I am going to speak to all other agencies tomorrow,” she said.
Explaining the plan, Narain told Hindustan Times that it would issue fresh directions, if any, only if air quality remains nearly the same for 48 hours.
The air quality in Delhi had been hovering in the ‘severe’ category in the last seven days, putting people of the Capital at major health risk.