SC to hear on Tuesday plea on alarming Delhi air pollution

New Delhi, Nov 7 (IANS) The Supreme Court will hear on Tuesday a plea on the alarming state of air pollution in Delhi as it was told that it had, in the past, issued several directions but their effective implementation and enforcement was lacking.

A bench of Chief Justice T.S. Thakur, Justice D.Y. Chandrachud and Justice L. Nageswara Rao agreed to hear the matter on Tuesday after Sunita Narain of the Centre for Science and Environment told the court that there was no effective implementation of the directions issued by the apex court last year.

Telling the court that as of now the direction issued in the past were sufficient, but if the need arose, they would urge the court to issue further directions, she also sought from the court, the monitoring of the implementation of its directions.

The apex court was also given the report by the Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority for NCR on the state of air pollution in the national capital territory.

Narain also told the court that Uttar Pradesh and Haryana were diverting the heavy vehicles and other traffic so that they don’t pass through the national capital but because of shortage of manpower, the diversion of traffic was not upto the desired levels.

The EPCA in its report, titled Delhi’s worst smog incident, says that the “levels of PM 2.5 has increased by 1.4 times on November 5, 2016 as compared to Diwali. It is 14 times the standard on November 5, 2016 – a situation, which is both alarming and dangerous for human health”.

Appreciating the steps announced by Delhi’s Arvind Kejriwal government on Sunday to curb the alarming level of air pollution, the EPCA report says that “if pollution is not reduced within the next 48 hours then Delhi government must take further steps to drastically reduce pollution, including odd-even (without exemptions) and further restrictions on commercial vehicle entry”.

The report has called for short-term emergency measures to drastically reduce the current level of air pollution and strict enforcement of top court’s December 16 directions for effective control of toxic and dangerous air pollution.

It says that the current level of air pollution in Delhi was “higher than what was recorded during the London smog incident of 1952 and certainly higher than what has been seen in Delhi ever”.

The key cause of this extremely high pollution in Delhi and its vicinity,” the EPCA report says, “is a combination of factors that includes already high pollution because of numbers of vehicles, unchecked construction and road dust, garbage burning which got compounded by Diwali crackers and the burning of paddy residue by farmers in Punjab and Haryana including onset of winter and no wind”.

The report says that the severe smog condition caused by all these must be “treated as a public health emergency”, and sought strict enforcement of environment compensation charge (ECC) on Delhi-bound trucks and other steps directed by the top court in December last year.