Measures should automatically kick-in when pollution spikes: NGT tells Delhi, neighbour states
National Green Tribunal told govts of Delhi, states to come up with an action plan comprising measures that would automatically come into forceUpdated: Nov 17, 2017 23:57 IST
The National Green Tribunal (NGT) on Friday directed Delhi and neighbouring states to frame an action plan that will kick in automatically when air quality deteriorates beyond ‘severe’, even as the AAP government sparred with a Supreme Court-appointed panel over the city’s deadly pollution levels.
The NGT move is expected to end a long process that involves the Supreme Court-appointed Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority passing orders when air quality turns severe. State governments and other agencies then pass their own orders to enforce pollution control measures under the Centre’s Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP).
Over the past fortnight, the Delhi government and EPCA have bickered several times – including on Friday – over possible pollution control measures even as the city reeled under a thick blanket of haze, the worst so far this winter.
“Steps to combat pollution should automatically come into play and should not depend upon the decision of government officials. The action plan should have reference and based upon GRAP, orders of the Supreme Court and orders passed by the NGT,” a bench headed by NGT chairperson Justice Swatanter Kumar said.
Air Quality Index (AQI) – which measures pollutants that can cause life-threatening ailments – is categorised in five levels between ‘good’ and ‘severe’. The last fortnight saw AQI levels in some parts of Delhi rise to 486 on a scale of 500.
As Delhi remained under “very poor” air for the third consecutive day on Friday, lieutenant governor Anil Baijal also held a high-level meeting to review measures enforced by agencies.
He directed that a ban on diesel generator sets and open waste burning should be stringently enforced, officials said. The Delhi metro was also asked to keep up with its increased frequency of trains.
But the meeting also saw chief minister Arvind Kejriwal and EPCA member Sunita Narain sparring over GRAP.
Kejriwal alleged that EPCA was not focusing on other NCR cities as much as it was on Delhi, sources said. He questioned the EPCA for not taking the issue of stubble burning with other states and the Centre.
Narain said the panel was trying to solve the problem instead of playing politics.
The panel’s chairman Bhure Lal also wrote a strongly worded letter to transport minister Kailash Gahlot asking him to stop “finger-pointing” and focus on augmenting Delhi’s public transport system.
“It is imperative that your government takes urgent steps to augment public transport. Only then we can ensure that emergency steps like odd-even are effective,” Lal said.
The dangerous pollution levels, described by Kejriwal as a “gas chamber”, prompted several emergency measures including closing down schools, suspending construction activities and sprinkling water on the most dusty areas of the city of 17 million.
The Delhi government had also made a four-fold hike in parking fee to deter people from using private vehicles but the NGT opposed the move, saying it was “not fulfilling the objective.”
The AQI on Friday saw a marginal slump to read 310 against Thursday’s 363. Though some parts of Delhi received a drizzle, scientists forecast that pollution levels could spike in the next 48 hours.
First Published: Nov 17, 2017 23:37 IST