As Delhi struggles to breathe under severe smog arising out of rising air pollution, the Supreme Court of India pulled up the central and the state government. This is not the first time that Supreme Court has intervened in the matter but Wednesday was different as the top quote also asked the Centre whether Hydrogen-based fuel technology was a solution. The air quality in Delhi and nearby areas exceeding hazardous levels, the Supreme Court asked the Delhi government to furnish day-to-day Air Quality Index (AQI) data pertaining to the capital.
The overall air quality index (AQI) in the city was 494 on Wednesday morning, according to the monitoring agency SAFAR. The index measures the levels of airborne PM 2.5 - particles that can reach deep into the lungs. This comes at a time when Britain's Prince Charles is on a two-day India visit. Prince Charles visited the Indian Met Department office in Delhi. The capital has been choked for weeks now with stubble burning in the adjoining states of Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh being the main culprit. The AQI level above 60 is considered unhealthy. Delhi-NCR has been grappling with a 400+ AQI level for weeks now as more and more people complain of chest and lung problems.
Air Quality in Haryana, Punjab also deteriorates to hazardous
The problem, however, is not just Delhi specific. PTI report says several districts in Punjab and Haryana reported air quality indices in the "severe" and "very poor" categories on Wednesday. Haryana's Hisar and Bhiwani reported the worst air quality in the two states as their AQIs stood at 470 each (severe category), as per the data provided by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), PTI reported.
Among other Haryana districts, Faridabad (AQI 449), Gurugram (446), Jind (445), Fatehabad (430), Sirsa (415), Rohtak (412) and Panipat (408) also recorded their air quality in the "severe" category.
In Punjab, air quality remained in "very poor" and "poor" categories. Amritsar's AQI was 362, followed by Bathinda (333), Patiala (285) and Jalandhar (276), the CPCB data said. AQI in the Union Territory of Chandigarh, the joint capital of the two states, was recorded at 242 which is considered as "poor".
Supreme Court asks for Air Quality data during Odd-Even
The Supreme Court Bench headed by Justices Arun Mishra and Deepak Gupta sought the data from the date on which the Odd-Even Scheme in Delhi was introduced. The top court also sought day-to-day AQI data for the period between October 1 and December 31, 2018.
The apex court took up the issue of air pollution in North India, and specifically the hazardous situation in Delhi. It had pulled up the Centre and the Delhi government for their inaction on the air pollution choking the national capital and surrounding areas. The AQI
The court 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. It also criticised the Centre over deteriorating air quality in Delhi while directing the government to find a solution to the problem of air pollution.
The bench directed the central government to assess the feasibility of hydrogen-based fuel technology.
"In our view, little constructive efforts have been made by govt and other stakeholders to find a solution to the problem," the SC bench said as it noted that the whole of north India, NCR is suffering from the issue of air pollution.
Meanwhile, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said that odd-even scheme in Delhi that ends on Friday may get extended if needed.
"We are thinking about the odd-even scheme. If needed, we will extend it," Kejriwal said as air pollution level in Delhi remains in "severe" category.
"I am worried about the health of the people of Delhi. I am also concerned about the image of the city being projected in the world. Earlier this month, German Chancellor Angela Merkel visited Delhi, what image will she carry about the country's national capital," the Chief Minister said.
As per Skymet AQI app data, Gurugram is the most polluted city in Delhi-NCR with four out of the five most polluted areas falling within the city.
Sector 67, Gurugram, is the top polluted area in the Delhi NCR region with the Air Quality Index (AQI) count of 643. With a count of 643, it is in the hazardous zone and both PM 2.5 and PM 10 are the main pollutants in this area. It is followed by Vasant Kunj in Delhi with an index count of 598, also in the hazardous category with PM 2.5 being the principal pollutant.
"What's the use of being a developing country if our children are not permitted to breathe in clean air...Must think seriously about solutions as soon as possible before any emergency occurs," a Twitter user posted on the microblogging site. Parents also took to social media requesting that schools be closed.