Delhi Air “Pitiable”, Says Top Court, Orders Action Against Old Vehicles

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The Supreme Court wants old vehicles dealt with severely to prevent air pollution.

New Delhi:

Terming the air quality of Delhi as "critical, pitiable and terrible", the Supreme Court today prohibited old vehicles that do not conform to pollution norms from plying in the national capital region and directed the transport department to impound them at sight.

"Newspapers tell us not to go out for walks in the morning and evening. But if you take a walk in the evening to the Old Delhi railway station, you will see poor people on cycle rickshaws. They have no option but to work outside to earn a living. Hundreds of people are earning their livelihood outside… how do you tell them? Will you tell them to kill themselves by working in all this pollution?" a three-judge bench headed by Justice Madan B Lokur asked the government's counsel.

The top court also directed the Delhi government to list diesel vehicles that have run for over 10 years and petrol automobiles aged over 15 years on its website as well as newspapers. Upon being told by the Environment Pollution Control Authority (EPCA) that the authorities should make better use of social media platforms to help citizens lodge pollution-related complaints, it asked the body to set up an app or system that would facilitate it.

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The EPCA had earlier told the bench that despite several court orders aimed at curbing violation of environment norms, nothing had been implemented "on the ground".

Delhi's air quality continued to remain in the "very poor" category today, with an overall Air Quality Index of 348, as a thick haze engulfed the city. The Central Pollution Control Board has warned that the situation will only worsen in the weeks to come.

Amid unfavourable weather conditions, farm fires and increasing vehicular pollution, government officials across the city have resigned themselves to a highly polluted Diwali this year. But the EPCA has taken a few steps under the graded response action plan, such as deployment of night patrols to prevent burning of plastic; banning the passage of trucks through the national capital territory if pollution reaches "severe" levels; and fining those found burning garbage by up to Rs 5 lakh, to ensure the well-being of Delhi residents.

Another area of concern for the authorities is polluting firecrackers, which continue to be sold despite a Supreme Court order allowing only those with green certification. However, there is some confusion among traders in this regard. "What are green crackers? Neither us nor the police know what that means. This is very worrying," said Sadar Bazar president Rakesh Yadav.

The Delhi Police, however, insisted that everything is on track for the upcoming festive season as far as enforcement is concerned. "Delhi Police has already enforced the new regulations on permanent firecracker outlets. We will ensure that temporary shops do not sell illegal firecrackers once the government starts granting licences," said Delhi Police public relations officer Madhur Verma.

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