NEW DELHI :
The government’s failure to curb worsening air pollution in Delhi and other parts of India has prompted the country’s top court to consider if states can be ordered to compensate citizens for bad air.
The Supreme Court issued show cause notices to the state governments of Delhi and three adjoining states asking why they should not compensate citizens for diseases and suffering caused by pollution.
“Human life and health have been put in danger," the court said in the order on Nov. 25. “In such a scenario, why they should not be required to pay compensation to such persons who are being affected" by air pollution and garbage.
Burning of farm residue, coal powered power plants, vehicles, inadequate solid waste management, festive crackers and politics all effect Delhi’s air quality, which is among the worst in the world. Bad air also imposes economic costs in terms of healthcare and workforce disruption in an already slowing economy.
The court directed the governments of Delhi and the three northern states of Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh to work with the federal government and take a decision in 10 days from Nov. 25 to install smog towers to purify the air.
The court also ordered the Delhi government to submit a report on the effectiveness of anti-smog guns, which spray water into the air to settle dust and smoke particles. The top court took note of reports that six cities have worse air than Delhi. “Hence, we propose to issue notice to all the states to report to us what is the air quality index in various towns," the court ordered.
It agreed to hear issues related to deteriorating water quality and solid waste management as well. “We see the Yamuna river has virtually turned into sullage," the judges said. The 1,376-kilometer (855 miles) Yamuna, which passes through Delhi, is a major tributary of the Ganges river.