Delhi air pollution: NHRC sends notices to Centre, Delhi, Punjab, Haryana

Press Trust of India, New Delhi | ByPress Trust of India
Nov 09, 2017 07:21 PM IST

The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has sent notices to the Centre and the governments of Delhi, Punjab and Haryana in view of “life-threatening” pollution levels in Delhi-NCR.

Residents walk along a road amid heavy smog in New Delhi on November 9.(AFP)
Residents walk along a road amid heavy smog in New Delhi on November 9.(AFP)

The NHRC criticised authorities for not taking proper steps to tackle the “hazard”, amounting to violation of right to life and health.

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The rights panel sought reports within two weeks from different Union ministries and the three governments on “effective steps” being taken and proposed to tackle the situation.

“The state cannot leave its citizens to die due to the toxic haze,” it said in a statement.

Union environment minister Harsh Vardhan said air quality levels in the national capital will come back to normal within the “next few days”, adding pollution levels had dropped considerably over the last 24 hours.

“Whether the steps which have to be taken by the Delhi government, they should be doing it in complete, total sincerity and similarly the state governments of Haryana, Punjab, Rajasthan.. They all have to step in to fulfil their part of the responsibility.

The national capital has been affected by severe air pollution and smog, forcing the Delhi government to close down schools in order to prevent students from being affected by the poor air quality and take several other emergency measures.

Vardhan, who is an MP from Delh, also said a series of measures had been undertaken by the central government as well as governments in the National Capital Region to curb pollution and that all the states were following a detailed action plan.

For its part, NHRC sent notices to the secretaries of the Union ministries of environment, health and highways and road transport along with the chief secretaries of the governments of the National Capital Territory of Delhi, Punjab and Haryana.

The commission said it had taken a serious view of the “life-threatening” pollution in the Delhi-NCR.

“It is apparent that the authorities concerned have not taken proper steps throughout the year to tackle this hazard, which is amounting to violation of the right to life and health of the residents in the region,” the NHRC observed.

The panel said it expected the health secretary to give details about the preparedness of government hospitals and other agencies to attend to those affected by pollution and steps taken to create awareness among the public.

It said there was an immediate need for effective action by agencies at the Centre and states.

Proper implementation of environmental laws was necessary, the statement said.

“There is a need for an effective study by experts and proper implementation of their recommendations, including short-term and long-term measures. There is also a need for preventive medical check-ups for the people,” the panel said.

The NHRC also observed almost every newspaper and TV channel was running stories on the subject. The toxic smog in the city had become “an annual health hazard”, particularly, at a time when the winters were about to start.

Several reasons were mentioned, including pollution caused by the vehicles, particularly trucks and heavy vehicles running on diesel, dust participles due to construction work going in and around the Delhi-NCR, burning of stubble by farmers in Punjab and Haryana, the “calm wind condition” and high humidity, which were beyond human control, it said.

Proposals of alternative roads to link the highways to avoid entry of the heavy vehicles inside the cities were being contemplated but “no effective steps” in this regard were taken yet, it said.

Pollutants touched calamitous levels in New Delhi on Wednesday, as a thick grey smog hung low across the region, prompting the government to declare closure of schools till Sunday, halt construction activities and ban entry of trucks in the city.

In the NCR, Ghaziabad and Noida were the worst affected locations. As per reports, the air quality index (AQI) had slipped into alarming levels.

Some instruments had recorded the maximum AQI of 999 at some places, it added.

“It is further mentioned that the air quality in the world’s most polluted capital city plunged to levels likened to smoking at least 50 cigarettes in a single day. One of the news websites reports that the situation is the worst, as it has touched the 1,000 mark on the air quality index, in certain parts of Delhi,” the NHRC statement said.

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