The Supreme Court on Friday said Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Delhi and Haryana have failed to take effective steps to combat rising pollution in the National Capital Region, Live Law reported. The court issued summons to the chief secretaries of all the states for November 29.
The top court observed that the odd-even road rationing scheme in Delhi could have been effective in reducing pollution in the national Capital if no exemptions were provided under its rules. “In cities where odd-even worked, there were no exceptions,” Justice Deepak Gupta said. At present, women and people using two-wheelers are exempted from the scheme.
The Air Quality Index, according to the Central Pollution Control Board, stood at 463 at 2 pm in Delhi. This is in the “severe” category.
Senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for the Delhi government, told the top court that according to data available to him, the scheme has reduced pollution by 5%-12%. He added that if two-wheelers and three-wheelers were also brought under the ambit of the scheme, pollution will be reduced further. However, Rohatgi said banning two-wheelers would bring Delhi to a standstill.
In response, the bench observed that the odd-even scheme only affects the poor and middle classes, as the affluent “have many cars”. “What are we gaining through odd-even?” Justice Arun Mishra asked. In response, Rohatgi said: “Should we not implement anything even if it has minimal effect?”
“Odd-even is not a long-term solution for the problem,” the top court said. “Public transport services should be made better. But there hasn’t been much work towards it.”
The lawyer for the Central Pollution Control Board told the court that cars contribute to only 3% of the pollution in the national Capital. Justice Mishra then asked the Delhi government what it had done to combat construction waste, garbage dumps and road dust.
Meanwhile, the advocate for the Centre told the bench that it is examining feasibility of putting up smog towers to reduce pollution in Delhi, PTI reported.
The board also told the court that the effect of stubble burning on air quality in Delhi has not faded away yet, though the practice has stopped in neighbouring states. It said that when wind speed increases, pollution will reduce.
The bench sought to see satellite images of the places where stubble burning was still taking place. “Show us images from today and yesterday,” the bench said. “Has there been compliance with our previous order?” The bench was told that there are still 30 “hotspots” where stubble burning is being carried on.
The court also told the Delhi Pollution Control Committee to randomly check three-wheelers that are running on polluting fuels and submit a report within seven days.
The Supreme Court had earlier this month ordered an immediate ban on stubble burning in Punjab and Haryana. It had also castigated the governments of Delhi, Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh for failing to curb the practice, and given them seven days to buy stubble from farmers.
On Friday, the court asked the counsel for the Punjab government whether farmers had been compensated after the ban on crop burning. The lawyer said compensation worth Rs 90 crore has been provided to farmers. He added that the state government is monitoring the situation.