SC directs Delhi, NCR states to follow directions by panel on air quality management

CJI NV Ramana remarked during the hearing that debates on television are creating more pollution. "Everyone has their agenda. They don't understand anything," he stated.

The Supreme Court on Wednesday asked states in the National Capital Region to follow the directions issued by ‘The Commission for Air Quality Management in National Capital Region and Adjoining Areas’ to control air pollution. A call on harsher measures will be taken after November 21, the bench stated, following the Centre’s submission that the situation would improve by then according to meteorological experts.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Centre, stated that the Meteorological experts had said that the situation will improve after November 21 due to wind conditions and requested the court, “Can’t we wait till November 21 before imposing harsher measures?”

CJI NV Ramana remarked during the hearing that debates on television are creating more pollution. “Everyone has their agenda. They don’t understand anything,” he stated.

The SG said the Commission had among others directed allowed operation of only gas-run industries in NCR, functioning of only five of the 11 thermal power plants in the 300-km radius of Delhi and a ban on entry of trucks till November 21, besides dust control measures to combat the deteriorating air quality index in the national capital.

He referred the bench to an affidavit filed by the Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change which said that the Commission had held an emergency meeting on November 16 following the court’s directions and had “detailed consultations with the invitees which included Secretary – Ministry of Environment Forest & Climate Change, Secretary – Ministry of Power, Secretary – Department of Personnel & Training, Chief Secretary of Delhi, Additional Chief Secretary of Haryana, Punjab, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh, Additional Secretary Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs, Principal Secretary, Department of Transport, Department of Town Planning, State of Haryana.”

At the end of the meeting, it directed that all those industries in NCR where gas connectivity is available shall immediately be shifted to gas.

It said that the six power plants not allowed to operate shall remain closed at least till November 30. The Secretary, Ministry of Power, had assured that any load requirements due to this closure shall be facilitated through the supply of power from plants beyond 300-km.

Regarding vehicular pollution, the Commission directed that the ban on entry of trucks can be extended if found necessary after November 21.

Authorities have been directed to ensure that no petrol vehicle older than 15 years or diesel vehicles older than 10 years ply on NCR roads. It also asked the NCT government to ensure an adequate number of CNG buses.

To control dust pollution, the Commission has directed that all construction will be halted, except work related to the Railways, the Metro, the airport, bus terminals and defence-related projects. It has asked authorities to deploy anti-smog guns, water sprinklers including fire tenders and application of dust suppressants in all vulnerable hotspots three times daily besides augmenting the number of mechanised road sweepers.

The Commission asked the NCR states and GNCTD to strictly enforce a ban on diesel gen-sets except for emergency services.

It directed NCR state governments to allow work from home for at least 50 per cent of their staff in offices in NCR till November 21 subject to further review, and also asked them to encourage 50 per cent of staff in private establishments to do the same till November 21.

All public and private schools, colleges and educational institutions in the NCR shall remain closed until further orders, allowing only online mode of education, it said.

The SG said this is a graded response and will be reviewed depending on the situation.

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