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Delhi HC Issues Directions In a Suo-Moto Matter On Delhi's Air Pollution

Karan Tripathi
14 Nov 2019 10:27 AM GMT
Delhi HC Issues Directions In a Suo-Moto Matter On Delhis Air Pollution
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Delhi High Court has issued a series of directions pertaining to forest covers, illegal encroachments and other measures in a suo moto matter concerning the rising problem of air pollution in Delhi. While taking into consideration the various facts presented by Senior Advocate Kailash Vasdev, the Division Bench of Justice Sistani and Justice Bhambhani issued the...

Delhi High Court has issued a series of directions pertaining to forest covers, illegal encroachments and other measures in a suo moto matter concerning the rising problem of air pollution in Delhi.

While taking into consideration the various facts presented by Senior Advocate Kailash Vasdev, the Division Bench of Justice Sistani and Justice Bhambhani issued the following directions:

  1. Forest Department is directed to prepare a list of all the pending litigations on illegal encroachments before all the forums
  2. Chief Forest Conservator is directed to be present in the court and file an affidavit mentioning the number of trees that are being planted between the period of January 2018 to November 2019. The affidavit must also state the future plan of action of the department to increase the green cover and take action against illegal encroachment
  3. All municipal bodies, committees and boards are directed to fix responsibility on persons under whose areas the problem of unpaved roads or uncovered malwa is persisting. Such persons should be made to ensure that malwa would be removed in a proper manner after sprinkling water
  4. This exercise should be done in a routine manner and senior officers of these municipal bodies shall routinely monitor and inspect whether the orders of this court are being complied with
  5. Secretaries of concerned government departments are directed to file affidavits to highlight the implementation of the guidelines
  6. All the Standing Counsels of the government are expected to be present in the next hearing

The court also rapped the counsel for the Forest Department for being absent from today's hearing. It said that it is because of such lack of seriousness towards important matters that the problem of air pollution is still persisting.

The court also questioned the Delhi Government on the steps taken to implement the concept of water sprinkling on open malwa, sand materials and unpaved roads.

On the issue of stubble burning, the court was informed by Mr Vasdev about the measures that were taken up by Singapore to successfully deal with the problem of stubble burning that happens in Indonesia - which included water sprinkling on fields and dedicating separate lands for dumping which were not inhabited by people.

The court noted that if such measures can be taken in a country with limited land resources, why can't the same be implemented in India.

During the course of the hearing, Mr Vasdev, who is the Amicus Curiae in the present matter, made following submissions before the court:

  1. As per the CAG Report, the Forest Department has not met its annual target of tree plantation. It also shows that the implementation of 20 points programme has been inadequate. Moreover, the files are not properly maintained at the offices of Forest Department, due to which, implementation is not properly inspected.
  2. The aforementioned targets have not been met even after reducing the limit of such targets
  3. Construction activities are not being properly balanced by restoration efforts. There has to be a scientific purpose behind planting certain species of trees. Not all trees would help in the reduction of air pollution.
  4. Apart from inadequate forest cover, the other two reasons behind air pollution are construction activities and vehicular traffic
  5. Planting seedlings as compensation for cutting down fully matured trees is not a solution
  6. There's absence of proper city planning, proper implementation of the existing rules and orders, and nothing is being done to remove illegal encroachments.
  7. No new buildings or infrastructure should be allowed to be demolished between the months of October and December. Moreover, for ongoing constructions, steps need to be taken to ensure that sand and other materials are not left uncovered, water should be sprinkled.

While pointing the level of menace that the cooking pollution of the city has created, Mr Vasdev quoted that:

'The health of our children is deterioration, and if things continue the way they are, it's only going to get worse'

While dictating the order, the court highlighted that the present suo moto matter has been going on since 2015 and if the orders of this court were properly complied with, we would not have reached the present levels of air pollution. The court said:

'There's no lack of proper ideas. There's a lack of will to implement them'

While emphasising on the need of increasing the green cover in the city, both as a long and short term measure, the court also noted that stakeholders and citizens will have to take a proactive role in case they have to make Delhi pollution free, not only for ourselves but for future generations as well. The court said:

'It requires a change in culture; a change in the mindset of people. People have to realise a collective responsibility towards the issue is air pollution'.

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