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Food ministry’s India Gate event gets exemption from diesel generator ban

The Union food processing industries ministry has been allowed to use diesel generators to power an international event, though such machines are banned in the Capital as part of a graded response action plan against air pollution.

The Supreme Court-appointed Environment Pollution Control Authority (EPCA) exempted the ministry on Tuesday from the ban for a three-day event from November 3 at India Gate, where delegates from over 20 countries are expected to participate.

The committee decided that granting the exemption was imperative as the sprawling India Gate doesn’t have the infrastructure for a power connection of 30 megawatt, the required load for the ministry’s function, in a decision that calls into question the viability of a blanket ban.

The New Delhi Municipal Council, the power distributor for the area, cannot provide a temporary connection as it doesn’t have the required structures and facilities. NDMC chairman Naresh Kumar said a substation would be required to supply that much power.

“I can’t divert power by stopping power in the VVIP area. Even if I do, there is a need for a full-fledged distribution network. Time is too short. It is a national commitment to the entire world by the government of India,” Kumar said at the EPCA’s weekly review meeting on Tuesday.

Mobile substations and CNG generators were suggested as alternatives, but turned down because of time constraints. That explains why the event, to be inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, depends heavily on portable diesel generators.

Responding to Kumar’s comments, EPCA member Sunita Narain said: “Clean air is also a national commitment.”

The EPCA turned down the Delhi government’s request for a similar exemption during Chhath Puja on October 26 and 27.

“For Chhath and baraats (wedding processions) we cannot give permission. They would have to use LED or battery lights,” panel chairman Bhure Lal said.


“A law firm is asking for exemptions. Someone’s father at home is ill, he wants (exemption). Medicine shops to bookstores, everyone wants to use generator sets,” he added.

The ban on diesel generators was one of the first measures to be implemented as part of the graded response action plan to fight “very poor” and “severe” categories of air pollution. There have been nearly 25 requests for exemption since the anti-pollution step began on October 17.

The Union tourism ministry too had sought the EPCA’s permission to use diesel generators at an event at India Gate from October 23 to 25. But the programme required less power and the NDMC was able to supply that. Permission was given for back-up generators, though.

But the NDMC threw its hands up for the food processing ministry’s bigger event.

“We have spoken to NDMC and they said they don’t have the infrastructure to cater to that type of power requirement,” said Jagdish Prasad Meena, secretary at the ministry.

The Delhi power department was asked at the review meeting to make people aware about temporary connections for functions, rather than using diesel generators. Power distribution officials said there are tatkal or fast-track schemes for such connections.

The ban doesn’t apply in cities such as Noida and Gurgaon.

“We would monitor the situation. Decisions (to include these cities) would be taken when conditions deteriorate,” Sunita Narain said.


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