The centre-appointed Commission for Air Quality Management in NCR and adjoining areas (CAQM) has directed all the industrial units in the National Capital Region (NCR) to shift to PNG or biomass fuels by September this year or face closure of their units.

The move is with respect to the push towards use of clean fuels in Delhi and adjoining areas of Haryana, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh. The alarming levels of pollution in NCR in the aftermath of Diwali and unabated crop-burning left the national capital and neighbouring areas choking.

Before issuing its order, the pollution control panel held extensive deliberations with companies, industry associations and the state governments. Besides industries in NCT Delhi, a majority of units in NCR, where gas infrastructure and supply is available, are still not fully operating with piped natural gas (PNG) or cleaner fuels and continue to use polluting fuels such as coal, high speed diesel (HSD), etc.

Warning to defaulters

“Such industries as above located in the NCR, beyond the jurisdiction of GNCTD (government of National Capital Territory of Delhi), shall under all circumstances completely switch over to PNG or biomass fuels, latest by September 30, 2022, failing which, such industries shall be closed down and not permitted to schedule their operations thereafter,” the panel said in its February 4 order.

Till such time, the transition to fuels as above is effected, such industries shall use only such fuels as approved by the respective state governments for industrial operations. Industries in the national capital territory (NCT) shall necessarily be run on PNG and electricity, it added.

Emissions from industries using polluting fuels like coal have an adverse impact on air quality in the National Capital Region (NCR) and adjoining areas and shifting of industries to PNG or clean fuels has been a priority for the Commission, the panel said in its order.

Delhi has 29 planned industrial areas such as Bawana, Narela, Okhla, Wazirpur, Patparganj and Shahdara etc. According to the Delhi Statistical Handbook 2019, the number of factories in Delhi stood at 9,121.

Switch to clean up air

“All industries in the NCR running on coal, if shifted to PNG or biomass fuels in conjunction with Air Pollution Control Devices (APCD), would result in a remarkable decline in biomass burning across different regions of NCR and adjoining areas, thereby improving the air quality,” the panel said.

In August 2021, the Commission had directed the governments of Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Haryana to audit and inspect industries which are already connected to PNG supply and ensure that those industries are not using any other polluting fuels like coal, etc.

Strict vigil

These states were also directed to maintain a strict vigil to prevent the use of unapproved fuels in the NCR, through the enforcement agencies concerned and take stringent action, in case of the defaulting units. Also these states have to prepare an implementable Action Plan by clearly specifying the definite time lines for switching over of all identified industries to PNG, where infrastructure and supply of gas are already available

Besides, states have to develop a time bound comprehensive action plan, in consultation with the authorised entities to supply gas in the industrial areas falling within the specified geographical areas of NCR districts, for ensuring PNG and infrastructure supply in the remaining industrial areas.

Then in November 2021, the Commission directed that all industries in NCR having gas connectivity shall be run only on gas as a fuel, and that all industries in NCR, where gas connectivity is available, shall immediately be shifted to gas, and the state governments to furnish industry wise date of shitting.