The Supreme Court gives the Union government two days to chalk out a plan to tackle alarming levels of smog in Delhi after the Diwali festival
New Delhi: Urging a common and comprehensive plan to tackle air pollution in Delhi and neighbouring states, the Supreme Court on Tuesday ordered the centre and respective state governments to come up with an anti-pollution plan within two days.
Alongside, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) banned all construction activity and shut down stone-crushing units and brick kilns for a week in the national capital region.
The Environment Pollution Control Authority (EPCA), which had approached the Supreme Court, told the bench headed by chief justice T.S. Thakur that it had handed over a list of checks to various municipal agencies of Delhi to ensure that air pollution was being monitored.
“Do you have any plan in place? The situation is dangerous. Meet with the environment secretary, consider various decisions across quarters and come up with measures to tackle the problem within two days," the bench told the central and state governments.
Delhi has been suffering from “severe" air pollution since 30 October, the Diwali day, with the state coming under a thick blanket of smog for several days.
On an average, the air quality has been nearly 10 times worse than the safe limit for these days. Severe is the level that can cause respiratory problems and seriously impact those with existing diseases.
So far, states have played a blame game without anyone taking any concrete action on the ground despite earlier court orders. While some authorities have blamed crop fires lit by farmers, others have blamed dust in and around Delhi.
Earlier in the day, the NGT lashed out at the governments of Delhi, Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh for non-implementation of its orders passed last year to control vehicular pollution, waste burning, crop burning and construction dust.
The bench led by NGT chairperson Swatanter Kumar was hearing a batch of petitions related to pollution in the national capital and adjoining areas. The bench also asked the states to stop the blame game, brainstorm together or decide independently on the steps that they are taking to control pollution and inform the tribunal on Wednesday.
“When all this mess was going on, when PM2.5 pollution went up above 1,000 micrograms per cubic metre, what steps did you take except doing meetings? Why could you not deploy helicopters to sprinkle water? It is shocking that you did not do anything for the first five days," the bench said.
The bench also came down heavily on Punjab and Haryana for failing to control stubble burning, spread awareness among the farmers and incentivize them to avoid crop burning.
“Tell us about just one instance when you put out farm fires or provided machines for managing crop stubble," the bench remarked.
It also asked the Central Pollution Control Board, India’s apex pollution watchdog, to collect ambient air quality data for a period of one week.