Winter is weeks away, but only 220 of the 3,000-odd construction sites in the city have signed up on the government’s dust portal till now – a sign of business-as-usual despite norms to prevent Delhi-NCR from turning into a chamber of poisonous air once again.
The dust portal was launched by the Haryana government in January last year, after directions were issued by the Commission of Air Quality Management (CAQM) in October 2021. The portal is supposed to reflect real-time pollution levels at construction and demolition sites and has a live dashboard for ambient air quality status. All large construction sites spanning over 500sqm area are mandated to register on the portal, so authorities can monitor emission levels and whether developers are following all rules to cut down pollution sources.
Asked about the lack of compliance, Haryana State Pollution Control Board (HSPCB) officials said on Sunday they’ll take stringent action against the defaulters.
“All construction sites larger than 500sqm are directed to follow CAQM norms at the earliest,” said HSPCB chairperson P Raghavendra Rao, directing officials of the board to evaluate the number of defaulters in Gurgaon.
According to data on the portal, of the 220 sites that have been registered, only 23 have information from sensors installed and real-time video links to the area.
Rules set by the CAQM expert panel say that all large construction and demolition sites across NCR have to register on the portal and provide live video of the area for round-the-clock monitoring of dust mitigation measures.
“Further, the project proponents are required to install reliable and low-cost PM2.5 and PM10 sensors at the sites. It is mandatory for the proponents to install reliable and economical PM2.5 and PM10 sensors at the sites and link them to a platform with live dashboard accessibility for the pollution control board to monitor the activities,” the rules issued on October 1, 2021, had said.
Every year, the onset of winter turns the skies over Delhi-NCR into a dome of hazardous pollutants, owing to a combination of meteorological factors and emissions. And every year, the CAQM puts in place the Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP) to curb air pollution with measures such as banning all construction and shutting down factories across NCR.
Construction agencies told on Sunday that following the guidelines is costly for them. “Installing PM2.5 and PM10 sensors along with infrastructure for video feed of the entire site requires funds. It is not a difficult task for large developers who have multiple sites, but for small scale units, it is difficult. Construction at several sites is also incomplete as many developers do not have funds to complete the project. Under such circumstances, investing money on air pollution measures is difficult,” said a manager of an under-construction site in Sector 86.
Apart from the portal, construction sites have to use green sheets along the fence, sprinkle water and cover vehicles carrying C&D material.