'Giving you 24 hours or...': Supreme Court raps Centre, Delhi over rising air pollution levels
Data from the Central Pollution Control Board revealed that Delhi's air quality in November was the worst for the month in seven years
The Delhi government was at the receiving end of the Supreme Court's ire over the rising air pollution levels in the nation capital.
Expressing its displeasure, the apex court told the Centre and Delhi government to come up with a concrete plan by Friday. "We feel that nothing is happening and the pollution keeps increasing... only time is being wasted," Chief Justice NV Ramana said during the hearing.
The court said that it was giving the administration 24 hours to act against industrial and vehicular pollution otherwise the court would have to step in. "If you don't take action we will take strict action tomorrow. We are giving you 24 hours," Chief Justice Ramana said.
The bench also comprising Justices D Y Chandrachud and Surya Kant said the Aam Aadmi Party had introduced several measures such as work from home and closure of schools and colleges in the previous hearings. During the hearing, CJI Ramana asked the Delhi government, "You said you've implemented work from home and closed schools. We don't see that."
Responding to the court, lawyer Abhishek Manu Singhvi — representing the Delhi government — explained that the schools were reopened after the pollution levels came down. However, the option of online classes is still there. He said that closure of schools will add to the "learning loss" experienced by the students. However, he added that the Government is prepared to follow any directions which the Court might pass.
But the bench did not appear happy and retorted: “Don’t use our shoulders to fire.. If you say only those who want to come should come, then all will. Who will want to sit at home now”.
The court also came down heavily on the government over its ‘Red Light On, Gaadi Off’ campaign to curb vehicular pollution, saying it was nothing but a popular slogan. “Poor young boys standing in the middle of the road with banners, who is taking care of their health? Again, we’ve to say, other than a popular slogan, what else is it?”
The bench then questioned the Centre about what the ‘Commission for Air Quality Management in National Capital Region and Adjoining Areas’ with as many as 28 members was doing.
The hearing comes as data from the Central Pollution Control Board revealed that Delhi's air quality in November was the worst for the month in seven years with the city witnessing severe pollution on 11 days and not a single "good" air quality day.
The 30-day average of the capital's air quality index (AQI) stood at 376. It was 328 in 2020, 312 in 2019, 335 in 2018, 361 in 2017, 374 in 2016 and 358 in 2015, according to the CPCB.
Delhi saw 11 "severe" air quality days in November this year, the highest in the month since the CPCB started maintaining air quality data in 2015.
Gufran Beig, founder project director of air quality forecast agency SAFAR, said extreme pollution events -- Diwali and peak stubble burning period -- got shifted towards November this year due to the delayed withdrawal of the monsoon.
"This is the major reason why November saw poorer air quality this year as compared to the last few years," he said.
With inputs from agencies
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According to an analysis by Delhi Pollution Control Committee, people in Delhi breathe the worst air between 1 November and 15 November every year