The Centre on Monday informed the Supreme Court said that stubble burning by farmers contributes only 4-10% of Delhi’s pollution.However, in view of the same, the Supreme Court directed Centre to call an emergency meeting of Punjab, Haryana, Delhi and UP on Tuesday for taking urgent measures about persuading farmers to stop stubble burning.
It said that action was needed to stop non-essential vehicular traffic, industrial pollution and dust control measures.
Here’s what the Centre argued in court:
Stubble burning at present is not the main cause of pollution in Delhi and northern states as it contributes only 10% of the pollution.
Solicitor general Tushar Mehta told a bench of CJI N V Ramana and Justices D Y Chandrachud and Surya Kant that dust is major cause of pollution now. He praised Delhi government for doing utmost in undertaking intensive sprinkling measures and stopping construction activities.
Petitioner Aditya Dubey’s counsel Vikas Singh said just because of upcoming elections in Punjab, neither Centre nor AAP government are saying anything against farm fires. But, CJI-led bench said it is not on elections or politics but on taking of measures to bring down pollution.
SG said experts are on the job and if needed a lockdown would be declared if the air quality turns for the worse. Prior to that trucks entry into Delhi will be banned and the thermal power stations would be asked to stop operating till the situation improves.
Solicitor General agreed and said that farm fires contribute to pollution only for two months.
The top court added that without all these scientific studies and expert views, it is common knowledge that vehicular traffic, industries and dust are the major pollutants in cities. If you take timely steps, pollution can be managed, it said.
SC asked Delhi government why only 69 mechanised sweeping machines to clean the roads allowing the dust pollution to continue to be a major source of pollution.
SC took exception to Delhi government passing the buck to MCD and said “if such lame excuses are given, then it would be compelled to audit the Delhi government to find out how much money is spent by it to popularise its slogans and messages.”
Meanwhile, Centre suggested three steps to Supreme Court to bring down pollution- Introduction of odd-even vehicle scheme, ban on trucks’ entry in Delhi, and severest will be lockdown.
SC asked Delhi government counsel Rahul Mehra to inform immediately how many mechanised road sweeping machines the government could procure in the next 24 hours to ease pollution caused by dust particles.
SC said since farm fires contribute only 4-10% to pollution, the states can persuade the farmers not to burn paddy stubble. “Don’t take action against farmers, persuade them,” the SC said. SC has also sought action plan from Centre, Punjab, Haryana and Delhi within a day.
Here’s what the Delhi govt argued in court:
Delhi government informs top court that it is ready to sanction funds for procurement of mechanised road sweeping machines as soon as the MCDs specify their requirements. SC said you take action and don’t wait for the court to pass directions.
The Delhi government told the Supreme Court that it is ready to take steps like complete lockdown to control the local emission.
Delhi govt said it is ready to declare lockdown but since air has no boundary, the Centre has to bring all NCR states on board and declare a lockdown in the entire NCR region. SC said it is for the governments to take action and not for the court to devise steps for executive.
The Delhi government, listing the steps taken so far, said no physical classes would be held in schools this week and the government officials would work from home, and private offices have also been advised to allow work-from-home for their employees.
“All construction and demolition activities will be closed with immediate effect till November 17” it added.
The matter has now been adjourned for hearing on November 17.