A crucial hearing is coming up in the National Green Tribunal (NGT) on Tuesday on air pollution and diesel vehicle ban after the green body rapped the state governments for not taking a clear stand on pollution and vehicle density in major cities in their jurisdiction.
The NGT said on Monday that bailable warrants will be issued against the chief secretaries of the states if they failed to produce the information sought by it.
The green body will on Tuesday also hear a petition by the Centre seeking directions on not extending to other cities the Supreme Court-mandated ban on registration of vehicles with diesel engines of capacity larger than 2,000cc in the NCR. The plea, moved by the heavy industries ministry on Monday, asked the tribunal not to apply restrictions in any city on the sale and registration of new vehicles that comply with statutory emission norms irrespective of the fuel used.
On Monday, the green panel directed Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Punjab, West Bengal to apprise it about cities which have worst ambient air quality, total number of vehicles along with their bifurcation (diesel/petrol) and the total population in each city.
The tribunal also rapped Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) for submitting “half-baked” data on the population and vehicle density in major cities across the country. The CPCB report has indicated that ambient air quality in most of the cities was beyond permissible standards.
“What kind of report is this? You (CPCB) have given us a half-baked data. We had asked you about vehicle density. How many vehicles are diesel and petrol? According to your report, Mumbai has a population of 11 lakhs. This is the joke of the first category.
“Your report says Delhi has 245 vehicles per km. There are thousands of vehicles per km in the capital, what kind of report is this. Today, you can even see a Fiat car of 1960 on the road. People in Delhi still have their Maruti 800 driving around,” a bench headed by NGT Chairperson justice Swatanter Kumar said while hearing a case related to air pollution.
The tribunal also directed Delhi RTO to appear before it and inform it about the total number of vehicles in the national capital along with their break-up.
At the outset, the NGT inquired the counsels appearing for Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh about the most polluted city in their states.
When the counsels failed to give a clear reply and sought time to seek instructions the bench said it will issue bailable warrants against the chief secretaries of the states if they failed to provide the data by Tuesday.
“Everyday you (states) say we want to seek instructions. We want clear stand on ambient air quality, human population and vehicle density.
“If the states fail to produce the data by tomorrow, we will issue bailable warrants against the chief secretaries of all states. You have made a joke of our orders. Be prepared to face consequences now,” the bench warned.
Noting that the air quality in metropolises was in violation to the prescribed standards, the tribunal had directed the apex pollution monitoring body to file comprehensive data on the population and vehicle density in major cities across the country.
The tribunal had taken note of air pollution in Mumbai, Kolkata, Bangalore, Patna, Lucknow, Allahabad, Kanpur, Varanasi, Nagpur, Chennai, Hyderabad, Ludhiana, Jalandhar, Amritsar and Pune and directed states to file a comprehensive affidavit stating the steps taken by them for prevention and control of air pollution.
The tribunal, which was restrained by the Supreme Court from dealing with matters on air pollution in Delhi, had earlier expanded the ambit of hearing by seeking responses on worsening air quality in metropolises like Mumbai, Kolkata and Chennai.
On December 18 last year, the tribunal had refused to vacate its order banning registration of new diesel-run vehicles, saying it won’t interfere with the Supreme Court order which has taken a similar stand.
In contrast to the prior NGT order banning registration of all diesel vehicles, the Supreme Court on December 16 exempted small ones and specified that the diesel-run SUVs and cars having engine capacity beyond 2000 cc would not be registered in Delhi and National Capital Region.