During his routine morning jogs, Vardhaman Kaushik often felt his stamina was going down. The young environment lawyer choked on what he felt was highly toxic air. In February 2014, he moved the National Green Tribunal (NGT) for relief.
He didn’t expect his ‘innocuous petition’ will escalate to the level it now has, and result in a ban for all petrol vehicles older than 15 years and diesel ones registered after 2005. The orders have come amid reports of worsening air pollution taking a dangerous toll on people.
Kaushik (26) said, “I was very saddened when the western media started mocking India when we surpassed China in terms of air pollution. I have a lot of expectations from this case. The ball is in the government’s court. Citizens should also wake up and make sacrifices.”
Kaushik who studied law in Pune and lives in Gurgaon says his family is prepared to make their first sacrifice. “One of the three cars we have in the family is a 2005 model (diesel) Mercedes-Benz. My father owns it but we will have to let go of our prized possession. Maybe we will keep it at a smaller place, where air pollution is not such a massive problem.
The NGT Tuesday ordered all diesel vehicles, private and commercial, over 10 years old off Delhi-NCR’s roads to help clean the Capital’s toxic air. The action follows NGT’s November 2014 order banning all vehicles 15 years and older in Delhi.
“My limited plea was the causes for the rising air pollution should be identified and curbed. I made a submission and sought a direction to authorities to build cycle tracks, install air filters, and make a web portal for people to complain about activities like waste burning,” he said.
Kaushik feels government agencies initially displayed much hostility. “They said the Supreme Court was hearing an air pollution case, and my petition in the tribunal was not maintainable. But the tribunal said I could not be kept from taking recourse to my statutory right of seeking relief,” he said.
Government agencies have so far filed 15-20 affidavits. “But mostly they’re talking about letters written among each other and other such non-significant matters. There is not much progress on the ground,” he said. The biggest problem lies in implementation.
“The Delhi Pollution Control Committee’s helpline doesn’t work. They have not advertised the web portal. Today itself, I saw dry leaves being burnt near Barakhamba road,” he said.
It is not even known how many vehicles have been sold, scrapped or moved out of Delhi in the last 10-15 years.