Stop Construction, Ban Entry Of Trucks, Introduce Odd-Even : Suggestions By Centre If Delhi Air Quality Worsens Beyond 'Severe'

Sohini Chowdhury

15 Nov 2021 12:34 PM GMT

  • Stop Construction, Ban Entry Of Trucks, Introduce Odd-Even : Suggestions By Centre If Delhi Air Quality Worsens Beyond Severe

    As the issue of air pollution in the National Capital Region of Delhi has become a matter of grave concern, the Supreme Court has observed that immediate and effective measures ought to be taken by the concerned governments and implementing agencies in order to curb the pollution levels in the Delhi-NCR region.Pursuant to the hearing on 13.11.2021, the Central Government has filed an affidavit...

    As the issue of air pollution in the National Capital Region of Delhi has become a matter of grave concern, the Supreme Court has observed that immediate and effective measures ought to be taken by the concerned governments and implementing agencies in order to curb the pollution levels in the Delhi-NCR region.

    Pursuant to the hearing on 13.11.2021, the Central Government has filed an affidavit to assist the bench comprising the Chief Justice of India NV Ramana, Justice DY Chandrachud and Justice Surya Kant, in this regard.

    At the outset it is submitted that the legislature had enacted the Commission of Quality Management in the National Capital Region Adjoining Areas Act, 2021 and under Section 12, the Commission has been empowered to take all measures, issue directions and entertain complaints, for the purpose of protecting and improving the air quality of the National Capital Region and Adjoining Areas. The affidavit has identified the major contributing factors to air pollution:

    1. Dust management

    2. Industrial pollution

    3. Agricultural stubble burning

    4. Vehicular pollution

    5. Burning of biomass/ municipal solid waste causing pollution and fire in sanitary landfill sites

    6. Bursting of firecrackers

    7. Unfavourable meteorological condition in Delhi NCR region particularly during the winter season.

    The affidavit elaborated on two types of responses to the crisis at hand:

    A. Long term measures

    B. Emergent quick responses

    The Long Term Measures includes:

    a. Ambient Air Quality Monitoring Network

    b. Air Quality Forecast

    c. Measures for controlling Vehicular emission

    ● Quickly shifting from BS-IV to BS-VI fuel standards.

    ● Collection of toll and Environment Compensation charges from commercial vehicles entering Delhi.

    ● Ban on all diesel vehicles older than 10 years and petrol vehicles older than 15 years as per Supreme Court order dated 29.10.2018.

    ● Introduction of BS-IV compliant vehicles across India since April,2020.

    ● Department of Heavy Industry providing subsidies on e-vehicles.

    ● Operationalisation of expressways and highways to divert non-destined traffic.

    d. Measures for control of Industrial Emissions

    ● Ban on use of pet coke and furnace oil as fuel in NCR States since Oct 24, 2017 and use of imported pet coke in the country since July 26, 2018

    ● Shifting of industries to clean fuel and installation of a monitoring system (OCEMS) in red category industries in Delhi-NCR.

    ● Notification regarding SO2 and NOx emission standards issued for thermal power plants.

    e. Measures for control of emissions from construction and demolition waste,solid waste, plastic waste, e-waste, biomedical waste and hazardous waste

    ● Notification of 6 Waste Management Rules issued in 2016

    ● Bio-mining of three dumpsites at Bhalsawa, Okhla and Ghazipur under process.

    ● Notification regarding dust mitigation measures for construction and allied activities.

    ● Advisory issued to DPCC/SPCBs in NCR for using dust suppressants in high emission zones.

    ● Special focus on C&D waste management, bio-remediation of legacy waste dump sites and plastic waste management under Swachh Bharat Mission. Allocation of apx. INR 1.41 lakh crores from 2021-22 to 2025-26.

    f. Measures for control of emissions from firecrackers - Introduction of green crackers, which have 30% reduced PM and gaseous emissions.

    g. Measures for control of emissions from stubble burning - Subsidies provided for establishing custom hiring centres and procurement of crop residue management machinery under the Scheme of 'Promotion of Agricultural Mechanization for in-situ Management of Crop Residue in the States of Punjab, Haryana, UP and NCT Delhi'.

    h. National Clean Air Programme to strengthen ambient air quality network, source apportionment studies, dust mitigation equipment, composting units, infrastructure for non-motorised transport, shifting to clean energy in unorganised sectors, etc.

    i. Comprehensive Action Plan (CAP) - Introduced in Delhi NCR to abate air pollution in a time bound manner.

    As per the affidavit, scientific study indicate that the contributors to the deterioration in air quality throughout the year are:

    A. Industrial pollution

    B. Vehicular pollution

    C. Dust from roads, open areas and construction sites

    D. Biomass burning

    The issue of Stubble Burning

    The affidavit states that there are certain factors which contribute for a limited period of time, but have a larger impact. In this regard, the affidavit provides the illustration of stubble burning (mainly paddy) in neighbouring states which takes place generally for the months of October and November. It is further pointed out that bursting of crackers during Dussehra and Diwali is a contributory factor, and the severity of pollution increases since these two incidents coincide every year. The North-West flowing winds into Delhi NCR and the fact that the peculiar condition of no flow of winds in NCR are also stated to aggravate the impact of stubble burning by encouraging accumulation of pollutants in the region.

    Sectoral Contributions

    The affidavit notes that a scientific study projects the indicative figures to show average sectoral contributions in PM2.5 and PM10 concentrations in Delhi as:

    As per the affidavit the Long term measures have been able to achieve an increase in the number of Good, Satisfactory and Moderate since 2016. The number of 'Good', 'Satisfactory' and 'Moderate' that was 108 in 2016, increased to 227 in 2020 and in 2021 (01.01.2021 to 13.11.2021) it has increased to 197. On the other hand, the number of 'Poor', 'Very Poor' and 'Severe' days had decreased from 246 in 2016 to 139 in 2020 and further to 120 in 2021.

    The Emergent Quick Responses include:

    a. Graded Response Action Plan for Delhi and NCR (GRAP) - Graded measure needs to be taken. A Sub-Committee has been constituted to operationalise GRAP and had passed five orders till dated (18.10.2021, 28.10.2201, 08.11.2021, 12.11.2021 and 13.11.2021). The operalization of GRAP for the winter season, 2021 had commenced on 12th October, 2021.

    1. Severe + or emergency category:

    ● Stop entry of truck traffic into Delhi (other than essential commodity)

    ● Stop construction

    ● Introduce Odd Even scheme

    2. Severe

    ● Close brick kilns, Hot mix plants, stone crushers

    ● Shut down Badarpur power plant and maximise generation of power from existing natural gas based plants

    ● Intensify public transport services

    ● Increase frequency of mechanised cleaning of roads.

    3. Very Poor

    ● Stop use of diesel generators

    ● Enhance parking fee

    ● Increase bus and metro services

    ● Stop use of coal/firewood in hotels and open eateries

    ● RWA and house owners to provide heaters to security staff to avoid open burning

    ● Awareness through media

    4. Moderate

    ● Stringently enforce/stop garbage burning

    ● close/enforce regulations in brick kilns and industries

    ● Enforce pollution control in thermal plants

    ● Periodic mechanised sweeping of roads

    ● Strict vigilance for visible emission and PUC norms

    ● Enforce rules for dust control in construction activities

    ● Deploy traffic police for smooth traffic flow

    ● Divert non-destined trucks as per Sc order

    ● Ban firecrackers as per SC order

    ● Fly ash ponds to be watered alternate days

    ● Effective information dissemination to the public

    Recent meeting of Sub-Committee, GRAP

    In a Sub-Committee meeting on 13.11.2021, the State Governments and the implementing agencies were directed to:

    a. Increase frequency of mechanised cleaning of roads

    b. Ensure closure of hot mix plants, stone crushers, brick kilns, DG sets, prohibition of firewood/coal in eateries.

    c. Maximise generation of power;

    d. Intensify public transport service

    e. Strict enforcement of dust control measures

    f. Stop use of diesel generators

    g. Media alerts

    h. Enforce/stop garbage burning

    i. Divert non-destined trucks

    j. Ban firecrackers as per SC order

    k. Enforce pollution control regulation in thermal power plants

    l. Deploy traffic police for smooth traffic flow

    m. Strict vigilance

    n. Govt and private offices and other establishments were advised to reduce vehicle usage by at least 30% (by work from home, car pooling and optimizing filed activities etc)

    Urgent meeting of the Commission of Quality Management in the National Capital Region Adjoining Areas.

    An urgent review meeting was convened by the Commission on 14.11.2021 to take immediate steps. Apart from identifying the areas which require immediate attention, viz, paddy stubble burning, dust from construction activities, dust from roads, vehicular pollution and industrial pollution, there were suggestions to issue Citizenship Charter/ advisory for general public as under:

    1. Moderate to Poor Category

    ● Keep engines of your cars/bikes/scooters properly tuned

    ● Maintain proper air pressure in tires of cars/bikes/scooters

    ● Keep PUC certificates up to date

    ● Turn off engine when no required

    ● Do not dispose waste in open spaces

    ● Report air pollution activities through SAMEER App.

    2. Very Poor Category

    ● People to minimize use of personal vehicles and use public transport

    ● Replace air filters in automobiles as per norms

    ● Avoid dust generating activities between Oct-Jan.

    3. Severe Category

    ● Choose cleaner commute

    ● Encourage Work from Home

    ● No use of coal/wood for heating purpose

    ● Reduce vehicular trips for running errands

    ● No bringing of garbage

    4. Severe + Category

    ● Children, elederly and people with respiratory, cardiovascular and other chronic diseases stay indoors.

    Dust Storm - another local factor aggravating pollution

    A member of the Commission (Director, India Institute of Remote Sensing, Dehradun) had informed that apart from stubble burning, the dust storm moving into Delhi-NCR from South-west directions of the Thar desert has also contributed to the adverse air quality raising the PM2.5 and PM 10 levels significantly. However, it was clarified that the effect of the storm has already begun to subside.

    Measures taken by Government of NCT of Delhi

    The Action Taken Report of the Govt of NCT of Delhi submitted on 14.11.2021 has also been taken note of in the affidavit filed by the Central Government.

    Regular measures taken:

    1. Continuous Real time Air Quality monitoring

    2. Comprehensive Action Plan

    3. Installation of Smog Tower at Baba Kharak Singh Marg, Connaught Place

    4. Research Studies to provide targeted information on sources of pollution in Delhi

    a. Source Apportionment Study of NCT Delhi - IIT Kanpur in 2016 and TERI in 2018.

    a. Source Apportionment of ambient particulate matter during winter season in Delhi - IIT Madras in 2018.

    b. Carrying capacity of Air Environment, NCT Delhi - School of Planning and Architecture in 2020.

    c. Real time source apportionment and forecasting for advanced air pollution management in Delhi - IIT Kanpur consortium signed on 22.10.2021.

    5. Control of Sources of Air Pollution at source level - 13 hotspots identified and action taken.

    6. Compliance of directions issued by Commission for Air Quality Management in NCR and adjoining areas - Road dust management, abatement of air pollution, safeguards and enforcement, greening and traffic management are being acted upon

    7. Conversion of 1636 industrial units to PNG

    8. Guidelines issued Use of Anti Smog Guns in construction and demolition projects having built up areas more than 20,000 sq m on 16.09.2021. 60 major construction sites with potential to pollute have been identified and inspected regularly.

    9. Imposition of charge of light and heavy duty commercial vehicles entering Delhi

    10. Augmentation of public transport. Promotion of electric vehicles by providing financial incentives, waiver of road tax and registration fees, establishing charges and battery swapping stations.

    11. Promotion of private charging infrastructure and installation of Public Charging infrastructure for e-vehicles.

    12. Inducting electric busses for providing last mile connectivity services on metro feeder routes.

    13. Green Delhi Fellowship programme and a Programme Management unit to plan, monitor, evaluate, coordinate control actions

    14. Implementation of GRAP orders

    15. Monetization of Agri-waste incentivising farmers for change in crop production and for selling stubble instead of burning it.

    The Government of NCT of Delhi has launched a 10 Point Winter Action Plan (1st Oct, 2021 to 28th Feb, 2022).

    1. Control stubble burning - PUSA bio decomposer to be sprinkled

    2. Anti dust campaign - Regulation at construction sites; use of mechanised road sweepers; use of anti-smog guns at construction sites.

    3. Preventing garbage burning - 250 teams to monitor.

    4. Banning crackers - Use, sale and purchase banned till 01.01.2022.

    5. Smog Tower has been set up and a team constituted to evaluate performance.

    6. Re-Identification of hotspots based on data from the Green Delhi App.

    7. Strengthening Green War Room has been launched

    8. Upgraded version of the Green Delhi App has been launched.

    9. E-waste Park to be built to prevent e-waste pollution

    10. Control pollution from vehicles - scrap older vehicles, strict checking of PUC certificate; citizenship engagement programmes

    The Government has claimed to have already initiated actions pertaining to road dust management, construction and demolition site dust control, open burning prohibition, vehicular pollution control, ban on sale and bursting firecrackers, and field deployment plan.

    Urgent Response: (directions issued on 13.11.2021)

    a. All schools, colleges and other educational nistitiuesh hav ebeen closed till 20.11.2021.

    b. All construction and demolition activities will remain closed till 17.11.2021.

    c. All State Govt offices (except those involved in essential and emergency services) would remain closed till 17.11.2021.

    d. Private offices to allow staff to work from home till 17.11.2021.

    The Government of NCT of Delhi also stated that it is ready to implement a complete lockdown. However, it has been emphasised by it that such a lockdown would be fruitful only if it is implemented across the whole of NCR.

    Observations of the Supreme Court on the Commission's meeting and the directions passed therein

    After the Solicitor General, Senior Adv. Tushar Mehta listed out the graded measures to be undertaken by the concerned Governments as suggested by the Sub-Committee, GRAP and emphasised upon by the Commission, Justice Surya Kant pointed out that the Court at present is concerned with urgent relief, whereas the measures being suggested are long term plans. He observed -

    "On the last date CJI pointed out that emergency steps are required to be taken. The suggestions you're pointing at are, this can only be a long term plan."

    Concerned about the more immediate effects, Justice DY Chandrachud directed, "Tell us by the 17th what are concrete measures that you can take to bring about a change in the situation."

    The CJI also directed, "Delhi Government Counsel please clarify what steps you're taking."

    Lamenting that the meeting convened by the Commission did not meet the Court's expectation, the CJI stated, "The way we expected the executive people to respond and come up with a solution hasn't been done. This is unfortunate."

    He further added, "Construction industry, stubble burning etc. are issues. Let the Committee meet and let them discuss these issues and action plan by tomorrow evening...The task force to meet and decide on these issues. Please ask the task force to discuss these specific issues and come back by tomorrow evening. If necessary we can hear tomorrow or the day after tomorrow…"

    Not satisfied with the response in the affidavit, the Bench noted that, "though some decisions were taken by the task force, it has not indicated precisely what steps they are going to take to control these factors which are causing pollution. We direct the Govt. of India to call for an emergency meeting tomorrow to discuss the areas we indicated and to discuss the implementation process."

    [Case Title: Aditya Dubey And Anr. v. Union of India WP (C) No. 1135 of 2020]

    Click Here To Read/Download The Order

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