Last week, residents of Delhi and its neighbouring National Capital Region (NCR) towns began preparing for what is to them an annual ritual in October. It's not the onset of autumn or the waning of the coronavirus but something called GRAP. That acronym stands for Graded Response Action Plan - tough new measures to combat air pollution, and has been in effect for three years in Delhi and NCR. Starting from October 15, diesel generator sets have been banned in Delhi and the NCR towns of Noida, Ghaziabad, Greater Noida, Faridabad, and Gurgaon, while pollution control authorities have begun night patrols to check for dust and industrial emissions, as well as the burning of stubble and waste. Civic agencies in the Indian capital have rushed to roll out mechanised sweeping machines amid frequent sprinkling of water on roads.
The reason behind this sudden surge of activities every October is simple: autumn marks the season when Delhi begins gasping for breath, a situation that becomes more acute as the months turn to winter.
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