Amid the buzz around Delhi’s odd-even policy, neighbouring Gautam Budh Nagar district in Uttar Pradesh too has effected radical moves to fight for the environment. ADITI VATSA takes a close look at a pilot project under which the administration has altered weekly holidays, working hours and timings of markets, factories, schools and corporate establishments in Noida, Greater Noida and surrounding areas to combat pollution and vehicular congestion.
Delhi grabbed attention and triggered debates with its odd-even policy to curb pollution as 2016 arrived. Neighbouring Gautam Budh Nagar district in Uttar Pradesh too had plans for the new year to combat pollution. The buzz was relatively less, but the measures got people talking and change was there to see.
From a decongested stretch between Rajnigandha Chowk and Noida Sector 10 on a Saturday evening, to closed shops in Noida Sector 18 on a Tuesday afternoon, and the busy Atta Market bearing a similarly deserted look on Wednesday — the first week of 2016 saw Gautam Budh Nagar district adapt to a new scheme announced by the administration.
In an unprecedented move, the district altered weekly holidays and working hours and timings of markets, factories, schools and corporate establishments in the area from January 1 to bring down vehicular congestion and pollution. While the announcement of the new measures was made in December last year, the decision was reached after consultations with various stakeholders over a course of two months.
“We were a part of these discussions. The scheme has been implemented on an experimental basis. The administration has been inviting suggestions from all stakeholders, listening to their concerns and making minor alterations in the scheme when necessary even after the implementation of the measure. This is a good step and it has been done not for a person’s own interest but for greater good,” said Vipin Malhan, president, Noida Entrepreneurs Association.
Factory workers too have welcomed the measure, which has brought in a weekly break. “While the scheme needs to be lauded for its aim of providing a cleaner environment, the measure has provided another benefit for factory workers. Many of them work on all seven days a week and do not get a holiday. With the implementation of this scheme, the factories will be closed one day every week and workers will also get a weekly holiday,” said R P Singh Chouhan, a member of Hind Mazdoor Sabha.
Amid the positive response from some, authorities admit to initial hiccups. Last Tuesday evening, several exporters and industry owners gathered at the District Magistrate’s office in Noida Sector 27 to raise concerns about the scheme affecting their business.
“Our buyers do not work on Saturdays and Sundays, while custom clearances are not issued on these days. With weekly offs assigned by the local administration on weekdays, we will end up not working for three to four days a week. We come here to raise this issue with the district magistrate,” said an exporter who did not want to be named.
The meeting of the exporters with the district administration led to an alteration in the scheme. It was decided that all export units will be closed on Saturdays. The measure has been applied to around 1,200 such establishments in the area.
District Magistrate N P Singh said, “The measures came up during discussions held over a course of two months when we were exploring ways to combat increasing levels of pollution. This has been initiated on an experimental basis and we are bringing about modifications as and when required.
After three weeks or so, we plan to assess the impact the scheme has made on the environment.”
While the district administration said the concept came up during discussions with various stakeholders on the issue of pollution, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) in June had suggested variable office hours for government and private sectors in Delhi.
Urging the Centre to adopt innovative measures to tackle air pollution, the NGT had said, “Variable working hours could be a solution. Courts and government offices in Delhi open at 10 am. If we have a gap of one or two hours, this will help to reduce vehicular emission immensely.”
Noida air watch manual, tools awaited
The measures for combating pollution and vehicular congestion announced by Gautam Budh Nagar administration come at a time when its jurisdiction areas covering Noida and Greater Noida are awaiting modern equipment for real-time monitoring of the air quality index.
Referring to an IIT Kanpur study on air pollution in Delhi and NCR areas, Anumita Roy Chowdhury, who works at the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), said, “The findings reported in the IIT Kanpur study indicate high levels of pollution in Noida. However, unlike Delhi, Noida does not have its own adequate monitoring system… In Delhi you get real-time data from different monitoring systems. You don’t get a sense like this from Noida.”
Uttar Pradesh Pollution Control Board officials said the area was expected to acquire the necessary equipment by February-March. “We have been trying to get the necessary equipment for the last one year. It is an expensive piece of equipment costing Rs 1.3 crore,” said Atulesh Yadav, Regional Officer, UPPCB (G B Nagar).
At present, the process of assessing air quality is mostly manual. After acquiring a Continuous Automatic Ambient Air Quality Monitoring System (CAAQMS), officials said, the process of getting air pollution data will become free of human intervention and errors. “Three spots in Noida have been identified with the help of Noida Authority which will provide us space and security for the equipment,” Yadav added.