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The National Green Tribunal Wednesday asked the Delhi government why the ban on construction and demolition was lifted in the capital despite air quality being very poor.
“Why have you have lifted the ban on construction activity in Delhi? How do you say it is safe outside? The levels of PM 10 and 2.5 are still five times higher (than normal),” NGT chairperson Swatanter Kumar said.
The tribunal also said it was not safe outside.
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Last week, Kumar had said that emergency measures, which included stopping construction and demolition, will have to be imposed if the PM 10 exceeded a concentration of 431 micrograms-per-cubic-metre and PM 2.5 went above 251-micrograms-per-cubic-metre.
According to the System for Air Quality and Weather Forecasting and Research (SAFAR), the average PM 10 concentration in the city on Wednesday was 355 micrograms-per-cubic-metre, while the PM 2.5 concentration was 202 micrograms-per-cubic-metre.
The decision to lift the ban was taken in a review meeting by Lieutenant-Governor Najeeb Jung on Tuesday, keeping in mind the loss of income to daily-wage labourers. The Delhi Pollution Control Commmittee had also told the L-G on Tuesday that PM levels had fallen considerably in Delhi over the past week and, while the air was still highly polluted, the situation was much better as compared to the first week of November.
The tribunal, however, said that the government should have found other ways to support construction workers.
“Under Industrial Disputes Act and labour laws, you have wide powers. Why can’t you order the builders to pay the money to labourers despite stoppage of work? The work at construction sites has not been halted due to these people (labourers). It has been stopped because the builders have caused air pollution. They must be asked to pay wages as part of corporate social responsibility,” Kumar said.
On Tuesday, the L-G had announced other measures, such as allowing trucks to enter Delhi only after midnight and a ban on firecrackers and diesel generating sets to curb pollution.
The tribunal asked the Central Pollution Control Board to submit air quality data of Gurgaon, Noida, Faridabad, Ghaziabad and other places near Delhi by Thursday.