The Supreme Court on Monday said that it would form a task force if the governments of Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Punjab and Haryana do not follow the Commission for Air Quality Management’s directions to curb pollution in the National Capital Region, Live Law reported.
A bench headed by Chief Justice of India NV Ramana was hearing a petition seeking emergency steps to control pollution in Delhi and its adjoining areas.
The court has asked the state governments to list down the steps taken by them to comply with the air quality panel’s directions before the next hearing on the petition on December 2.
Delhi and its neighbouring areas have been grappling with poor air quality since Diwali. The air pollution has resulted in restrictions on traffic movement and construction activities and shutting down of schools.
“All intentions are good and directions are given but the implementation is zero,” the Supreme Court noted at Monday’s hearing, according to Bar and Bench. “The only issue is to implement the directions and there is no use by imprisoning someone or charging someone. If it [implementation] is not happening, we can order an independent task force.”
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta told the Supreme Court that while the governments had followed some directions of the air quality panel, there was a lack of information about compliance on other aspects.
“I am not apportioning blame and I am saying the same thing about Delhi, Haryana, Punjab, etc,” he said.
On November 16, the Commission for Air Quality Management had issued a slew of directives to curb emissions from several industries, thermal power plans, and vehicular pollution.
The panel had lifted a ban on construction activities on November 22 after pollution levels in the National Capital region reduced slightly. However, the restrictions were reimposed by the Supreme Court two days later, while allowing non-polluting activities such as plumbing, carpentry, and electrical work.
On Monday, the Supreme Court also asked the governments to list out actions taken by them to provide welfare funds to construction workers, whose livelihood have been affected by due to the restrictions.
Meanwhile, Senior Advocate Vikas Singh, representing the petitioner at the hearing, pointed out that work on the Central Vista project was going on despite the ban on construction activities. The court asked the solicitor general to file a response on this matter as well.
Construction ban in Delhi will continue: Gopal Rai
Addressing a press briefing soon after the Supreme Court hearing, Delhi Environment Minister Gopal Rai said the ban on construction and demolition activities in the national capital will continue till further orders, reported ANI.
Rai also announced that the Delhi government will give Rs 5,000 to each construction worker in the city. He said that non-polluting construction activities such as plumbing work, interior decoration, electrical work and carpentry are allowed, reported PTI.
The decisions were taken at a review meeting. At the press briefing, Rai said that the ban on the entry of truck except those engaged in essential services will also continue till December 7. Electric trucks and compressed natural gas, or CNG, trucks will be allowed to enter the city.
The minister said that his government’s “red light on, gaadi [vehicle] off” campaign aimed at curbing vehicular pollution was being extended till December 18.
“Experts have said low temperature and low wind speed have led to stagnant conditions and that Delhi’s air quality is likely to remain very poor in coming days.” Rai said. “The situation can improve if it rains, as predicted by the India Meteorological Department.”
The Delhi government had also shut down schools and other educational institutions on November 13 due to the worsening air pollution levels in the national Capital and adjoining areas. The government had also directed its employees to work from home.
However, the educational institutions reopened on Monday with Rai saying last week that the decision was taken as the air quality in the national capital has improved.
Offices have also reopened for Delhi government employees.
Meanwhile, real-time data available on System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting and Research, or Safar, at 5.30 pm on Monday showed that Delhi’s overall Air Quality Index at 362.
An AQI between zero and 50 is considered “good’’, 51 and 100 “satisfactory’’, 101 and 200 “moderate’’, 201 and 300 “poor’’, 301 and 400 “very poor’’, and 401 and 500 “severe’’.