With Delhi being engulfed by the worst smog in 17 years, the National Green Tribunal today came down heavily on the Centre and Delhi government for not taking steps to tackle the alarming air pollution level, asking them not to shift the blame on each other.
“It is unfair to the people of Delhi. In everything, the authorities are just throwing off their hands. We have to do something. You cannot say that time will do it,” a bench headed by NGT Chairperson Swatanter Kumar said.
“Regarding health (of the people), nobody is bothered. On air pollution, nobody’s bothered. The authorities are shifting the blame on each other. It is very bad,” the bench remarked.
The bench also directed Delhi government to stop the plying of diesel vehicles more than 10 years old on the roads of the national capital.
During the hearing, the counsel appearing for the Delhi government told the bench that the high level of air pollution was due to the burning of agricultural residue in neighbouring states of Haryana, Punjab and Rajasthan.
“It’s not just the crop burning. There is no crop burning in Delhi. According to you, crop burning is in Haryana, Punjab and Rajasthan but nowadays there is no wind, so the smoke can’t come here from these states,” the bench retorted.
The NGT also issued notices to the Secretaries of Environment and Urban Development of Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan and directed them to remain present before it on the next date of hearing on November 8. When the bench asked Delhi government what steps it has taken to stop plying of diesel vehicles which were over 10- year-old here, the counsel said that they were challaning such vehicles but “we don’t have space to park impounded vehicles.”
“We are challaning such vehicles but we have no space for parking,” the counsel for Delhi government said.
To this, the bench asked the counsel to move appropriate application before it in this regard.
As the hearing commenced, the bench wanted to know about the preventive steps which were discussed during the meeting held yesterday in pursuance to its order.
Additional Solicitor General (ASG) Pinky Anand, who was appearing for the Centre, told the tribunal that as per the order, Chief Secretary of Delhi was to convene the meeting.
“Central government is living in Delhi. You can’t say you are not concerned with air pollution. Yesterday we had passed directions to the authorities concerned to have a meeting with the Chief Secretary of the Delhi government along with the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) and other authorities.
“What happened in the meeting? who will tell us? We are asking this, but still there are no answers,” the bench said.
The ASG, however, told the green panel that there was no question of shifting blame on each other and they will file a status report detailing the preventive steps to tackle air pollution.
The bench was hearing a matter in which the issue pertaining to worsening air quality of Delhi has been raised.
Yesterday, while hearing a separate petition on dengue and chikungunya menace in the capital, the Delhi government had claimed that dengue cases had declined due to stoppage of mosquito breeding caused by rising air pollution.
After this submission, the bench had then directed the Chief Secretary of Delhi to hold a meeting and file a status report explaining the preventive steps they have taken to tackle alarming air pollution and smog level.