All 15-year-old petrol and 10-year-old diesel vehicles need to be impounded in Delhi-NCR, the Supreme Court ruled on Monday as air quality became more dangerous. Politicians, however, continued to do what they do best - play the blame game. The judicial intervention came on a day when pollution in 10 areas in Delhi hit the severe mark - the sixth and the last stage on the air quality index. Overall, air quality was in the second most alarming category: very poor. "If you take a walk in the evening to Old Delhi railway station, you will see poor people on cycle rickshaws. They have no option..." the court said. "Hundreds of people are earning their livelihood like that... Will you tell them to kill themselves by working in this pollution?" it asked Delhi government authorities.
Chief minister Arvind Kejriwal, however, blamed Congress-ruled Punjab and BJP-ruled Haryana, saying crop stubble burning in the two states had triggered the crisis. He also blamed the Centre for "inaction". Union environment minister Harsh Vardhan hit back at the AAP chief and said, "I would like to say to him that there are a few things on which politics should not be played." The BJP leader referred to NASA images to claim fewer crop stubble burning incidences this season.
Another Union minister and BJP leader, Vijay Goel, said Kejriwal was misleading people. "He should clean Delhi and not blame others," he said. Inside the court, a bench headed by Justice Madan B Lokur was firm in its order that old, smoke-billowing vehicles will be impounded if found plying in Delhi-NCR. It ordered their lists be published on the websites of the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) and the transport department. Advertisements in this regard will also be published in newspapers.
The CPCB will immediately create a social media account for citizens to lodge complaints about pollution, said the bench that also comprised Justices S Abdul Nazeer and Deepak Gupta. The National Green Tribunal (NGT) had also banned such vehicles in Delhi-NCR. But the ban had not been taken seriously. Meanwhile, the Supreme Court-appointed EPCA informed the top court on Monday that commercial vehicles like trucks and taxis were the major source of pollution in the National Capital, and that there was a need to control their operation.
The Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority (EPCA) said that heavy commercial vehicles release very high levels of carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxide. It pointed in its report that taxis like Ola, Uber travel 400 km per day, as against personal cars that travel 55 km per day, and even if these vehicles use CNG, their net contribution to pollution will be high. The report said taxis and autorickshaws must use the cleanest fuel and technology. The EPCA filed a report on the status of implementation of orders on air pollution in Delhi-NCR and on further directions needed, given the severity of the problem.
'Tech help needed'
The EPCA's report suggested measures such as cleaning up vehicles through technology and to reduce and restrain the growth of individual vehicles through massively augmented public transport systems, so as to re-check the sources of pollution. The report cited the 2018 Emission Inventory of Delhi, released by the Union ministry of earth sciences, according to which there has been a 40 per cent increase in vehicular pollution between 2010 and 2018 in Delhi and its adjoining areas, thereby making them the key contributors to air pollution in the National Capital.
Out of all the vehicles, heavy commercial vehicles like trucks and other ones such as taxis are the major pollution source, with very high carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxide emissions, it said. The report stressed on the fact that industries now contribute up to 18 per cent of the air pollution in the city, and that industrial pollution has increased by a whopping 48 per cent between 2010 and 2018.
With PTI Inputs