The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has rapped the Delhi government for sprinkling water on roads using hose pipes instead of helicopters to bring down pollution levels in the city.
“What major steps have you taken to curb pollution? Diwali and crop burning are known factors, did you hold any meeting in August and September to prepare the state to tackle pollution? Do you have any data that shows reduction of smog? Why are you sprinkling water through cranes and not helicopters?” NGT chairperson Swatanter Kumar said Tuesday.
But government officials said they had already suggested the idea to the Union Environment Minister during a review meeting on Saturday. “A group of citizens had met the Chief Minister last week and suggested sprinkling water as an emergency measure. We suggested it to the Union Environment Minister as the helicopters would have to be arranged. We have already sprinkled 25 lakh litres of recycled water on roads to help the dust settle,” said a senior official.
Kumar also came down heavily on the Haryana and Punjab governments and asked what they had done to stop agricultural stubble burning and construction dust. “What major steps has the Punjab government taken to reduce crop burning? How many machines have you provided to farmers for agriculture waste disposal? If you have provided even Rs 1,000 to farmers, then they would not have burnt the agriculture waste like this,” he said.
The tribunal ordered a ban on construction activities and operation of stone crushers and brick kilns for a week in Delhi and NCR.
It also ordered the municipal corporations to depute 50 per cent of their staff to inspect construction sites and monitor burning of municipal solid waste.
Kumar also ordered the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) to collect ambient air quality data for a period of one week with the Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC). He also asked the Delhi government why it had shut schools and how it came to the conclusion that indoor spaces were less polluted than outdoors.
The petitioner, who filed the ongoing air pollution case in the NGT, also moved the tribunal to ensure free masks for schoolchildren and senior citizens to protect them from high pollution levels in the city.
The petitioner said that since the Delhi government has failed to implement and execute the orders of the green panel on air pollution, it should provide free masks as a punitive measure.