The National Green Tribunal (NGT) today came down hard on the governments of Delhi, Punjab and Haryana over the current situation of air pollution in the national capital and surrounding areas.
“What major step you have taken to curb the pollution?” the NGT asked the Delhi government.
“This is a matter of life and death. You have forced the children to confine themselves to their houses. Even a mask has a limit. Beyond a degree of pollution, masks may be detrimental,” it observed.
The tribunal said that all the three had done ‘noting’ to combat the menace till yesterday.
“Officers present here aren't revealing ground reality. All we see is construction work on Delhi-Chandigarh route that violates guidelines,” it said.
“You have any data that shows reduction of smog? Why are you sprinkling water through cranes and not helicopters? Why couldn't you deploy helicopters for sprinkling water to improve air quality? You are playing jokes. Cranes which fix lights are given for sprinkling water,” the tribunal said, rebuking the city government.
“Diwali and crop burning are known factors, did you hold any meeting in August and September to prepare the state to tackle pollution?” it further asked the government.
Lawyers, representing the three states admitted before the court that they had ‘not fully read’ a series of orders by the NGT against pollution.
“Why you (three state governments) skipped reading our six judgements? Read all judgements first, analyze. What steps you propose?” it said.
It also slammed the government for halting construction activities.
“You are only issuing challans to poor people, not builders for pollution. How many challans for creating pollution? Builders have kept construction material on roads not covering it,” it said.
On its decision to close the schools till tomorrow, the NGT said, “Delhi Schools closed? Did you do a study if outside or indoor pollution is more harmful?”
The tribunal also asked the Punjab government about the major steps that it has taken to reduce crop burning.
“How many machines have you provided to the farmers for agriculture waste disposals? If you had provided even Rs 1000 to the farmers, they would not have burnt the agriculture wastage like this,” it questioned.
The Delhi government, in a first, yesterday issued a health advisory asking people to avoid highly-polluted areas and cautioned those with asthma and lung ailments not to venture out for any activities, even as the city continued to battle its worst smog in 17 years.
The announcement comes on a day when the administration put into effect a number of measures, including halting of construction and demolition activities, starting of process of deregistration of 15-year-old diesel vehicles and imposition of ban on use of fire crackers.
Cases of severe breathlessness, asthma and allergy have sharply risen in Delhi as the city remains blanketed in thick layer of toxic air due to the worst smog the capital has seen in 17 years.
The situation earlier had prompted Delhi High Court to observe that it was akin to ‘living in a gas chamber’. The Centre had termed it an ‘emergency situation’ and called a meeting of Environment ministers of all neighbouring states.
Meanwhile, schools in Delhi have been shut down till tomorrow, with reports suggesting that the city government was considering to include another session of the odd-even scheme to restrict the use of private cars on roads.