High drama marked the National Green Tribunal’s hearing on Tuesday when a group of Hauz Khas restaurant owners pleaded with folded hands that their units should not be shut.
They said the livelihood of 2,000 workers, mostly daily wage earners, was at stake. They claimed that many of them had begun putting in place pollution-control safeguards such as waste water treatment plants.
The NGT had on Friday ordered all the 34 restaurants in the area to be shut till Tuesday for running without requisite approvals and spewing untreated sewage.
The closure will remain in force at least till Wednesday, when the tribunal will decide their fate.
After the Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC) explained its constraints in regulating restaurants, the tribunal made three more agencies - Delhi Police, Delhi Jal Board and South Delhi Municipal Corporation - and all the restaurants party to the case.
The tribunal said it would allow restaurants to function only in case of absolute adherence to regulations. The DPCC will inspect the units and submit a report on Wednesday, when the matter is heard next.
“We want to ensure that the environment is protected, people get hygienic food and the archaeological status of the area is maintained. We want proper licensing measures in place. We do not want to shut restaurants,” the tribunal said.
The DPCC blamed the municipal corporations for the mushrooming of polluting restaurants “The corporations issue basic licences after asking for clearances from police and health department. But they hardly ask for pollution-control clearances. DPCC doesn’t figure on their check-list,” said DPCC chief Sandeep Mishra.
“The corporations have all the details of restaurants in their areas. If the share the database with us, we can do much more in terms of regulation,” said another DPCC official.
The tribunal on Friday had expressed concern over “the mushrooming of a large number of restaurants established illegally without required consents under laws formed to control air and water pollution”.