Observations, policies and pollution; Delhi’s air is toxic yet again 

Despite constant reprimands from the Judiciary, the Centre and Delhi governments have been unable to curb air pollution. Patriot brings you all that has been said 

With the coming of October, Delhi’s perennial problem of air pollution becomes a problem for everyone. This year too, from October the air quality started deteriorating and by November the AQI had crossed 400.  On 15 November, the Supreme Court prodded the Central government to hold an emergency meeting to look for a solution. The court reprimanded the Delhi government for  ‘lame excuses’ and ‘passing the buck’ on the city’s ‘very poor’ air quality.

It was not the first time that the Supreme Court has reprimanded the government on the issue of pollution. For the last five year the Supreme Court, Delhi High Court and National Green Tribunal have been directing Delhi and Union governments to take action to tackle rising pollution levels in the capital city. 

Last year, hearing a case filed by 17- year- old activist Aditya Dubey, the Court directed the union government to bring a law to tackle air pollution. It also asked the centre to ensure no smog in Delhi. In abeyance to that union government brought Commission for Air Quality Management (CAQM) for the National Capital Region (NCR). But smog remained throughout the season.

It replaced all ad-hoc committees and bodies assisting the court including the Environment Pollution (Prevention & Control) Authority, which assisted the court for 22 years. Only on the suggestion of EPCA, the supreme court directed the government to bring a Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP) and EPCA was empowered to enforce that. GRAP is a set of measures to be taken as per the air quality. It includes Odd/Even scheme and closure of schools as an “emergency” measure.

The Supreme Court has time and again come down heavily on the centre and state governments over the issue of pollution. Justice Arun Mishra, who was sitting alongside Justice Deepak Gupta, criticised the government in 2019. “We have become a laughing stock. The government cannot provide clean air and water to the citizens in its capital city. What is the point of all this development? What is the point of being a world power?”

“Delhi has become ‘narak’ (hell). People are living in a gas chamber and are dying due to cancer and other lung ailments. Their life spans are getting shorter.”

In 2018 the Supreme Court and NGT asked the government to take emergency measures. NGT Chairperson Swatanter Kumar while criticising the governments said, “What did you do when all this smog was going on and the particulate matter reached beyond prescribed limits? What steps did you take, except till yesterday? For the first five days nobody did anything, be it the states or the Centre.” The SC also rapped the Delhi government for ignoring the ban on entry of old vehicles.

In 2017, NGT slammed authorities for allowing a test match against Sri Lanka in Delhi despite the pollution. It also censured the Delhi government for failing to file an action plan to tackle air pollution. “The situation is getting from poor to worse, children are suffering and the Delhi government has not even filed its action plan”, it said.

 In 2016, NGT directed the Government to temporarily shut down thermal power plants and stop all construction activity. The NGT also proposed a state of “environment emergency” and directed emergency measures. 

The same year, the NGT also criticised the Delhi government and the civic bodies for failing to take adequate measures. “When PM 2.5 pollutants touched its maximum value, what steps you (the government and civic bodies) took to control it, except doing meetings? Why no strict action was taken in the first five days?” said NGT Chairman Justice Swatanter Kumar.

Now in 2021, the story hasn’t changed. Pollution is rising, people are wheezing in polluted air. The courts are slamming the governments. This year not even GRAP is implemented despite the fact that Delhi has seen many days of air in “very poor” category in November. 

(Cover: Getty images)

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