Navigating The Smog: Delhi’s Battle For Clean Air

Posted On - 22 November, 2023 • By - King Stubb & Kasiva


Delhi, amidst the festivities, is wrestling with a silent foe – air pollution. The city’s struggle against declining air quality recently hit a critical point, leading to the activation of Stage IV of the Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP). As authorities take decisive actions to counter the escalating crisis, it’s essential to dive into a thorough examination of the situation, the government’s reactions, and the potential repercussions on the lives of Delhi’s inhabitants.

Context and Intensity of the Challenge:

The declaration of Stage IV GRAP measures comes after a prolonged period of ‘Severe’ air quality conditions, with the Air Quality Index (AQI) surging beyond 450. Data from the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) illustrates a worrisome rise, with the AQI climbing from 454 at 5 AM to 463 at 3 PM on a recent Sunday. This abrupt escalation is attributed to a blend of factors, including adverse meteorological conditions, rampant farm fires, and sluggish North-Westerly winds ushering pollutants into Delhi.

Government’s Prompt Reaction:

In response to this crisis, the Commission for Air Quality Management in NCR and Adjoining Areas (CAQM) invoked an 8-point action plan as per Stage-IV of GRAP across the entire National Capital Region (NCR). This includes the following:

  1. Enhance Road Cleaning Practices: Increase the frequency of mechanized/vacuum-based road sweeping.
  2. Optimize Dust Control Measures: Ensure daily water sprinkling and use dust suppressants on roads and right of ways, particularly in hotspots and heavy traffic corridors & conduct these measures before peak traffic hours and ensure proper disposal of accumulated dust in designated sites/landfills.
  3. Promote Off-Peak Travel: Increase the frequency of public transport & implement differential pricing to incentivize off-peak travel.
  4. Regulate Construction and Demolition Activities: Define and enforce specific activities to be carried out for construction and demolition tasks.
  5. Cease Stone Crusher Operations: Halt all stone crusher activities.
  6. Suspend Mining and Related Activities: Implement a complete halt on all mining and related activities in the NCR.
  7. Restrictions on Vehicle Operations: Impose tight limitations on the operation of BS III petrol and BS IV diesel LMVs (4 wheelers) in Delhi and the districts of Gurugram, Faridabad, Ghaziabad, and Gautam Budh Nagar.
  8. Transition to Online Learning: State governments in the NCR and GNCTD may consider discontinuing physical lessons in schools for students up to Class V and offer classes online as an alternative.

Impact on Transportation and Commercial Activities:

The 8-point action plan also alters the transportation landscape, with restrictions on the plying of 4-wheeler diesel Light Motor Vehicles (LMVs) in Delhi and nearby NCR districts. Only BS-VI vehicles and those designated for essential or emergency services are exempted from this ban. Furthermore, the plan enforces a hiatus on construction activities in linear public projects, such as highways, roads, and power transmission.

Educational Institutions and Workplaces:

Education and workplaces aren’t immune to these stringent measures. The government has empowered NCR State Governments and the Government of the National Capital Territory of Delhi (GNCTD) to decide on allowing public, municipal, and private offices to operate at 50% capacity, with the rest working from home. Concurrently, the possibility of discontinuing physical classes for students in classes VI to IX and class XI is under consideration, with a potential shift to online learning.

Thorough Closure Measures:

In the pursuit of cleaner air, the government has implemented comprehensive closures. Directives are in place to ensure the strict closure of brick kilns, hot mix plants not operating on approved fuels, and the operations of stone crushers. Furthermore, there’s an overall ban on industrial operations in NCR using fuels outside the approved list. However, crucial industries like milk and dairy units, as well as those involved in manufacturing life-saving medical equipment, devices, drugs, and medicines, have been exempted from these restrictions.

Citizen Responsibility:

The success of these stringent measures heavily relies on the cooperation of the citizens. The government, through CAQM, has issued a heartfelt appeal for the residents of NCR to actively participate in the implementation of GRAP. The Citizen Charter under GRAP serves as a guide for individuals, encouraging them to share rides, use public transport, and adopt eco-friendly alternatives such as walking or cycling.

Implications on Air Quality and Health:

Delhi’s battle against air pollution is not merely inconvenient; it’s a grave concern for public health. Extended exposure to harmful air pollutants poses significant risks, including severe respiratory problems, cardiovascular issues, and enduring health consequences. The adoption of GRAP Stage IV signifies the government’s recognition of the critical need to prioritize the health and well-being of its citizens. As industries are curtailed and vehicular movement restricted, the hope is that the air quality index will witness a noticeable improvement in the coming days.

Economic Repercussions:

While the focus is predominantly on public health, the stringent measures outlined in GRAP Stage IV have economic ramifications. Industries directly impacted by the restrictions, especially those required to cease operations, may face financial challenges. The closure of brick kilns, stone crushers, and certain industrial units may lead to a temporary economic downturn in affected sectors. However, the government’s exemptions for essential industries aim to strike a balance between economic sustainability and environmental conservation.

Technological Innovations and Long-Term Solutions:

As Delhi continues to confront frequent challenges related to air quality, the necessity for sustainable, enduring solutions becomes even more pronounced. Embracing technological innovations, such as the widespread integration of electric vehicles, enhancements to the infrastructure of public transportation, and the implementation of eco-friendly practices in industries, holds the potential to chart a course towards a more environmentally aware future. The government’s active involvement in championing these initiatives is pivotal in the ongoing efforts to address and diminish air pollution in the region over an extended period.

Public Awareness and Education:

Raising public awareness and fostering education are integral aspects of a sustainable strategy against pollution, extending beyond immediate measures. The government’s commitment to investing in informative campaigns becomes paramount, aiming to enlighten citizens about how their daily choices significantly influence air quality. Initiatives to endorse public transportation, advocate for waste reduction, and support the creation of green spaces within the city form essential steps contributing to a united endeavor in the battle against pollution.


In the midst of Delhi’s struggle with the thick veil of pollution, the government’s bold move to implement Stage IV GRAP measures emerges as a crucial step to tackle the urgent issue of air quality. A thorough examination of the situation uncovers a complex crisis fueled by a combination of meteorological factors, agricultural practices, and vehicle emissions. While the government’s response appears drastic, it emphasizes the critical nature of the problem and the dedication to preserving public health.

The repercussions of these measures extend beyond mere restrictions on vehicles and industrial activities; they seep into the everyday lives of citizens, impacting their education, employment, and overall welfare. The challenge doesn’t solely rest in implementing these measures; it also involves nurturing a collective sense of responsibility among the people of Delhi-NCR. The success of GRAP relies on the joint commitment of the government and its citizens to usher in cleaner air and a healthier future for the capital and its neighboring regions. In the face of this crisis, Delhi finds itself at a crucial juncture, where short-term sacrifices may pave the way for a sustainable and healthier tomorrow.