The Supreme Court asked the central government on Tuesday to inform within 48 hours if it has a policy, or graded response, to check rising air pollution in Delhi.
The top court also asked the Centre, Delhi government and the civic agencies concerned to come up with a common minimum programme, or an action plan, to fight the menace.
It was hearing a plea filed by the Environment Pollution Control Authority, which has sought a proper monitoring of pollution levels. The matter will now be heard on November 10.
Delhi has been reeling due to a thick cover of smog and haze since Diwali. The toxic air and the city’s worst smog in nearly 17 years have sparked concerns of health hazards among citizens.
The smog is making children wheeze, giving the healthy a chronic cough, and risking 18 million people to asthma, heart disease, stroke, and even cancer.
Faced with criticism, the city government has announced a list of measures, including the closing down of schools. The Centre too has taken stock, with Union environment minister Madhav Dave holding a meeting on the issue.
The court’s direction comes a day after Delhi’s lieutenant governor Najeeb Jung, for his part, announced that all 15-year-old diesel vehicles will be de-registered and a temporary ban on construction activities will be extended till November 14.
The high pollution has been blamed on a combination of factors: high vehicle population, unchecked construction, road dust and garbage burning, among others. This was made worse by the stubble burning in the neighbouring states of Punjab and Haryana and Diwali crackers.