The National Green Tribunal on Thursday declared an environmental emergency in Delhi, Haryana, Punjab, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh, while recommending measures to help curb air pollution in these states. Soon after its ruling, the Supreme Court criticised the Central Pollution Control Board for not having a plan ready to manage deteriorating air quality. It also asked the Centre to hold a meeting and come up with time-bound measures that will be implemented by various agencies.
The National Green Tribunal bench, headed by Justice Swatanter Kumar, said that the states should sprinkle water using helicopters, ban old diesel vehicles, stop construction activities and transportation of construction material, and shut down stone-crushers till air quality standards improved.
The green panel also asked states to set up centralised and state-level monitoring committees that will prepare action plans. While it asked the central monitoring team to hold meetings once in two months starting from November 17, it directed the state-level committees to meet every month starting from November 24, reported The Hindu.
“The states owe a constitutional, statutory and public law obligation to provide to its citizens at least breathable if not absolutely clear air to breathe,” said Kumar. The NGT also lashed out at the states for not taking action against farmers for stubble burning. It asked Punjab, in particular, to consider withdrawing incentives to farmers for burning agricultural residue.
The air quality in the National Capital Region has dropped significantly since the city celebrated Diwali on October 30, with several reports saying the Capital is now the most polluted city in the world. It was made worse by cooler temperatures and lack of winds, which causes a harmful mix of respirable pollutants and toxic gases to remain close to the surface. The Centre for Science and Environment had said that Delhi has not been affected by such smog in the past 17 years.