The Supreme Court asked the Centre on Friday to put in place a pollution coding mechanism with a graded response system to tackle New Delhi’s growing foul air.
The grading system will ensure that certain steps can be automatically introduced. When air quality dips, the odd-even car rationing formula will kick in, along with closure of schools, a four-fold hike in parking fee, ban on entry of trucks, and halt in construction activities.
The order came after the top court approved the Central Pollution Control Board’s (CPCB) “graded response action plan” that outlines measures based on air quality — moderate to poor, very poor, severe, and severe-plus or emergency. A separate set of action plan has been suggested for each category.
A bench headed by Chief Justice TS Thakur asked the board to install real-time and manual pollution monitoring stations in Delhi, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan to check air quality for the graded response.
Smoke from farm fires, construction dusts, exhaust fumes from vehicles and factories, and firecrackers combined to shroud New Delhi and its satellite cities in their worst smog for 17 years after Diwali in November. The government was forced to take emergency steps such as closing schools and halting construction, while the judiciary too chipped in with stinging remarks against administrative inaction to clean up the Capital’s foul air.
“Do you want to wait till people start dying? People are gasping for breath,” a bench headed by Chief Justice Thakur said then.
The board, which the top court had pulled up for failing to make a roadmap to reduce air pollution, said severe and very poor air quality are common during winter: November to February.
The air quality index is measured on the basis of PM2.5 and PM10 in the atmosphere, which are tiny particles of dust that can cause grave respiratory disorder and damage the lungs.
The situation becomes severe or emergency when PM2.5 level is above 300 microgram per cubic meter or PM10 crosses the 500-mark. In such a scenario, authorities will close schools, stop the entry of diesel trucks into the Capital, halt construction activities, introduce the odd-even scheme for private vehicles, and hike parking fees.
The graded response fixes responsibility on the agency that has to enforce the measure.
Ban on diesel generators, construction and burning of garbage on landfill sites will kick in if the air index is very poor, with PM2.5 between 121 and 250.
When air quality is moderate or poor, the steps to be taken are ban on garbage burning, watering of fly ash ponds, closure of brick kilns and polluting industries, and mechanised sweeping of roads.