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legal | IST

Delhi air pollution: Supreme Court dissatisfied with action plan; suggests closing offices, banning vehicles

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The apex court observed that transport is acknowledged as a major source of pollution in Delhi and expected the committee to take a call on closing offices, banning vehicles in certain areas.

The Supreme Court on Wednesday expressed dissatisfaction with the action plan and said urgent and immediate steps are required to tackle Delhi's air pollution. The apex court blamed the bureaucracy for developing a sense of inertia, apathy, adding that the executive wanted the court to do its work. The remarks came as Delhi's air quality remained in the 'very poor' category for the third day.
The apex court observed that transport is acknowledged as a major source of pollution in Delhi and expected the committee to take a call on closing offices, banning vehicles in certain areas. "We know that the gas guzzlers are plying on Delhi roads. What we expected is for this committee to take a call on closing offices, banning vehicles in certain areas," the top court said.
In Delhi, the AQI was recorded in the 'very poor' category at most of the stations, at few places like Dwarka Sector-8 and Patparganj, Alipur, Shadipur, DTU, and Panjabi Bagh, it had crossed the 400-mark, going into the 'severe' category, according to data shown in SAMEER app on Tuesday. The average AQI of Delhi stood at 396, data from CPCB showed.
The court asked if the Centre can reduce the number of vehicles and implement work from home as it did during COVID-19 lockdown. Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Centre, told the court that cutting the workforce from the Central government will have pan-India impact. Instead, the government officers can consider car-pooling and common buses for the staff. He added that banning a few hundred vehicles of Central government will may not materially affect pollution levels, as compared to some other pollutants.
The court has adjourned the hearing to November 24 and warned the government that it should not assume that Supreme Court is not watching.
Key takeaways from hearing in the Supreme Court:
1) Centre lists out an action plan and proposes measures such as closing of power plants, ban on entry of trucks, bar on construction, road sweepers. It clarifies that stubble burning is a major pollutant.
2) The Delhi government blames stubble burning, says responsible for up to 58 percent of pollution in the city. It reiterates that any lockdown should involve the entire NCR region, not just Delhi.
3) The Supreme Court expresses dissatisfaction with action plan, says urgent, immediate steps are required. The court slams government for inaction, blames the "apathy and inertia" of the executive.
4) The court proposes closing down of offices, proposes temporary ban on private vehicles, stops short of passing formal orders.
5) The Centre asks for more time, says Met forecasts suggest that favourable wind conditions From November 21 will help pollution levels. The apex court mocks, says government cannot wait for nature to come to the rescue.