Delhi Air Pollution: Every year we choke; governments pass the buck, Supreme Court
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Delhi Air Pollution: Every year we choke; governments pass the buck, Supreme Court

Shruti Mahajan

The Supreme Court today pulled up the Centre and the Delhi government for their inaction on the air pollution choking the national capital.

The Special Bench of Justices Arun Mishra and Deepak Gupta took up the issue of air pollution in North India, and specifically the hazardous situation in Delhi.

Justice Mishra, visibly miffed and worried about the situation, said,

“The main question today is of air pollution. Delhi is choking every year and we are not able to do anything.”

Noting that this is a yearly phenomenon, despite which there appears to be no action from the authorities, the Court said,

“State machinery is not functioning properly and then there is passing the buck, Delhi should do or Centre should do…

…every year this is happening, and this continues for 10-15 days. This cannot be done in a civilized country.”

The air quality index in Delhi and other parts of Northern India has crossed hazardous and toxic levels, the Court noted. It further observed that “no room in Delhi is safe”. Despite installing air purifiers, the PM 2.5 levels were at 500 and 600, indicating a grim situation, the Bench said.

“The right to life is the most important. We can’t live like this, cannot survive in this atmosphere. We are losing precious years of our life.”

Stubble burning is one of the major factors and contributors to air pollution, the Court pointed out. Despite the yearly “hue and cry” about it, the crop burning exercise is continuing unabated, and must stop immediately, the Court said.

There are rules and regulations as regards crop burning is concerned in Punjab, Justice Gupta observed. The Court pulled up the state governments of Punjab and Haryana over their failure to curb incidents of crop burning.

“Crop burning is a tort… If it is a tort, state govt and gram panchayats are also responsible. We will haul the authorities from bottom to top in case of more violations. People are only interested in gimmicks and electioneering in this country.”

The Court has sought the presence of an environmental expert from IIT Delhi as well as a representative from the Ministry of Environment and Forests to suggest immediate steps that can be taken to deal with air pollution.

The Supreme Court has, on multiple occasions in the past, held hearings to find solutions to the recurring air pollution issues faced in Northern India. To this end, it has passed orders curbing the use of fireworks during Diwali, limiting the number and types of vehicles plying on roads, and issuing directions prohibiting stubble burning.

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