No odd-even plan in Delhi at present but prep won’t take long: Gopal Rai

Delhi Environment Minister Gopal Rai spells out the plan to control sources of pollution, and challenges on the way.

After setting the record of one of the cleanest air on record because of the lockdown, Delhi saw the air quality dip to ‘poor’ on Wednesday. The forecast says that the concentration of pollutants could increase further in the coming days. Delhi Environment Minister Gopal Rai spells out the plan to control sources of pollution, and challenges on the way.

The government has taken a proactive step on air pollution and now the focus seems to be on tackling dust pollution. Does the government have a specific plan to tackle vehicular pollution? Are there plans to implement odd-even, like it was done last year, irrespective of what the air quality was?

Odd-even is never implemented in a normal situation. When pollution increases, we speak to experts and decide. At present, the point of view is that during Covid, pollution can be more dangerous. All possible action plans will be looked at. As for odd-even, it will be decided upon the timing and expert opinion. Last year, we had spoken to experts. At present, there is no plan for odd-even. If need be, preparations won’t take much time because it has been done before.

Multiplicity of agencies has been a consistent roadblock in implementation of policies in the city. In such a situation, how do you see the role of the Environment department?

It is true that the Environment department does not have a role everywhere but we will have a dialogue with all agencies because the responsibility is ours, even without jurisdiction. The way out is dialogue. The CM met all agencies on October 5. I have also been meeting departments and coordinating because fighting this battle without a collective effort is impossible.

The government has been at loggerheads with the municipal corporations. At a time like this, have you faced any problems in coordination with these agencies, which are crucial to the fight against pollution?

Pollution is everyone’s problem and it will have to be fought together. If problems come, we will hold a dialogue.

There have been no problems so far. We have met and everyone has submitted their plans.

A lot of workers left for their villages when the lockdown was announced and have started returning now. How difficult will it be, in view of the economic situation because of the pandemic, to order a construction ban or impose penalties on non-conforming industries? How will you build the confidence of the workers?

The implementation of these rules will only be done through dialogue. It is important to continue business activities and it is also important to save our lives. Economic activity impacts each one of us, as does pollution. We will find a solution through dialogue. The government cannot do this alone, people have to be equal participants. We can’t fight this war alone… We will have to tackle the situation when it develops.

What is your long term focus?

We are holding tree plantation at a large scale. Our target is to plant 31 lakh trees this year. Increasing Delhi’s green area is a long-term plan. The Electric Vehicle Policy, which will reduce the number of polluting vehicles on the road, is a long-term target. Our tree transplantation policy is also forward looking as it is better to transplant trees rather than planting small saplings.

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