With the air quality in Delhi dropping to alarming levels for the third straight day, the National Green Tribunal on Thursday pulled up the Delhi government, the city’s municipal corporations and governments in neighbouring states for “playing” with the lives of people.
“It is shameful for all the parties in this matter on what they’re passing on to the next generation,” the NGT observed.
Questioning the seriousness of the neighbouring states of Delhi in tackling pollution, NGT said even construction work hasn’t stopped despite its order.
“Even construction work taking place openly isn’t being stopped, and when such a situation has ensued now action is being promised,” it said.
Saying that curbing pollution is a joint responsibility of all stakeholders, NGT said that people are being denied their Right to Life.
“All the constitutional authorities and statutory bodies measurably failed to perform their duties. So far pollution is the concern, it is a joint responsibility of all the stakeholders.
“Articles 21 & 48 of the Constitution mandate that it is the responsibility of governments to make sure that citizens get a clean and conducive environment. Right to life is being snatched from people since they’re not getting a clean environment,” it said.
Citing a report by the Central Pollution Control Board, the NGT said PM 10 and PM 2.5 levels have been alarmingly high in the past week.
“CPCB’s report has shown the extent of danger lurking in the air in Delhi NCR. Yesterday PM 10 levels, supposed to be 100, had touched 986, while the PM 2.5 levels, supposed to be 60, had reached 420. This has been the situation since the past week,” it said.
The green body also asked Delhi government on the steps it had taken to control pollution and the number of challans it issued to violators, and the number of construction sites where work has been stopped. It also enquired why helicopters weren’t being used to sprinkle water.
It ordered industries to stop work in Delhi till the next hearing. It also directed the government to depute personnel to monitor activities causing pollution.
Earlier, the NGT asked them to explain why preventive steps were not taken to control the ‘severe’ air quality in the region. A bench headed by NGT Chairperson Justice Swatanter Kumar lambasted the state governments for not being prepared in advance to tackle the emergency situation.
On Wednesday, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal sought a meeting with his Punjab counterpart Capt Amarinder Singh to discuss the pollution problem. Farmers in Punjab and Haryana have been burning crop stubble ahead of the harvest season. This has contributed significantly to the rise in air pollutants in neighbouring Delhi.
No wind, so no respite from smog soon
The thick layer of smog that has enveloped Delhi is likely to persist for at least 48 more hours, experts said. Currently, “there is absolutely no wind movement”, and Delhi government officials on Wednesday said that wind movement — likely on Saturday — would be insufficient to disperse all pollutants instantly.
According to a forecast by System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting And Research, the average concentrations of PM2.5 and PM10 will be around 420 and 678 micrograms per cubic metre on Thursday. The safe standard is 60 and 100 micrograms per cubic metre.
Dipankar Saha, head, air laboratory division at CPCB, said, “There is no wind movement. Moreover, temperature is also not coming down, which could have resulted in the conversion of fog into water and subsequent dispersion of suspended particulates.”
Meanwhile , Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal reached out to Captain Amarinder Singh, the Chief Minister of Punjab — a state where his party is the prime Opposition, and also where maximum incidence of stubble burning has taken place — and Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar, seeking a meeting to discuss joint measures to solve Delhi’s air crisis.
Kejriwal said that the two governments had failed to provide farmers with viable alternatives to stubble burning, and that farmers are “helpless”.
Kejriwal wrote, “You are aware about the poor air quality in Delhi… Delhi has become a gas chamber.” Citing stubble burning in the two states as one of the main reasons for it, he offered to jointly work with the Punjab and Haryana governments to resolve the issue “in a spirit of mutual cooperation in larger public interest”.
Am writing letters to CMs of Punjab and Haryana requesting them for a meeting to find solns to crop burning
— Arvind Kejriwal (@ArvindKejriwal) November 8, 2017