The Delhi government on Tuesday filed a fresh application before the National Green Tribunal (NGT), continuing to seek exemption for two-wheelers and women drivers from the odd-even scheme. It also sought that directions be issued to governments of states adjacent to Delhi for implementing the car-rationing scheme, sources said.
This will include cities within the NCR where pollution levels have been high — at times higher than Delhi — such as Ghaziabad and Noida in Uttar Pradesh, Gurgaon and Faridabad in Haryana, and parts of Rajasthan.
Sources said the issue of including other state governments, in the national capital region, was suggested earlier this week to the government’s legal team by the Aam Aadmi Party. Sources reasoned that the Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP) was created by the Supreme Court-appointed body, Environment Pollution (Prevention & Control) Authority (EPCA), and the directions within it were notified by the Union government in January 2017, so they apply to all participatory states in NCR.
A source added, “Under GRAP, when PM2.5 levels cross 300 µg/m3 or PM10 levels cross 500 µg/m3, then odd-even scheme for private vehicles is to be implemented all over Delhi and NCR. Further when PM2.5 levels are between 121-250 µg/m3 or PM10 levels are between 351-430 µg/m3, then parking rates should come up by three-four times across NCR. But the entire emphasis has been on Delhi, although pollution in NCR has a direct impact on the capital.”
Defending the need for exemption of two wheelers, Delhi government’s fresh application reiterated that the city’s public transport infrastructure was not capable of dealing with the situation. The source said, “There are nearly 68 lakh two-wheelers in the city, of which 25 lakh two-wheelers ply every day. If these are not exempted, 2,500 buses are needed, which Delhi doesn’t have right now.”
It also reiterated the issue of “security and safety of women” — stating that “women will not feel comfortable while travelling in heavily crowded public transport.” Earlier, on Sunday, AAP MLA and Delhi spokesperson Saurabh Bhardwaj had said that both the odd-even scheme and the increase of parking rates by four-times had been mandated by the EPCA.
Earlier in the day, the NGT had rejected the Delhi government’s plea that women and two-wheelers be exempted from the odd-even vehicle rationing scheme. The Tribunal had also called the smog situation in the capital an “environment and public health emergency”.
The Tribunal’s stand had prompted the Delhi government to withdraw the application it had filed before the bench, headed by NGT chairperson Justice Swatanter Kumar. But later in the evening, the Delhi government filed the fresh application — sticking to its stand on exemptions but this time asking that odd-even be implemented across NCR.
In its order, the Tribunal said that “in light of… hazardous values” of pollutants “which are bound to create environmental and health hazards, it is not possible for this Tribunal to vary the order”. It asked for submissions from the Delhi government, different boards and ministries to “enable the Tribunal to consider the modification of its earlier orders in accordance with law”.
The Delhi government came under fire from the Tribunal, with the bench asking, “Are you serious about the environment? Why don’t you act on those who are responsible for pollution? How many people have you penalised so far?” Referring to the Central Pollution Control Board’s assertion that two-wheelers contribute to over a third of the pollution in Delhi, the bench said, “Then where is the question of exemption?”
The Tribunal also directed that the “express highway project of Eastern Peripheral Expressway, which is being carried on… would continue”, subject to the most senior officer of NHAI filing an undertaking “that they shall fully ensure that there is no dust emission and no pollution is caused by their activity”. The Delhi government, corporations and pollution control boards were also directed to “identify by 4 pm today the area which is highly polluted in NCT Delhi… and ensure sprinkling of water”.