If you can run a marathon in Delhi you can run anywhere, the Delhi High Court on Friday said while referring to the “hazardous” air pollution levels here and suggested measures like immediate extinguishing of landfill fires and ensuring only CNG taxis enter the national capital to improve air quality. “If anyone can run a marathon in Delhi, they can run anywhere,” a bench of justices B D Ahmed and Jayant Nath said after it was informed that despite the high pollution levels there was going to be a marathon in the city on November 20.
The court, however, asked the Delhi government to issue an advisory for the public informing them about the air quality which the bench noted contained pollutants four times more than the prescribed standard.
Observing that factors like fires in landfill sites, stubble burning in neighbouring states of Haryana, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan, plying of all India permit diesel cabs in the city, fireworks, road dust and construction work pollute the air, the bench issued a slew of directions to address each of them.
Noting that Punjab government was “still in denial mode” regarding its contribution to air pollution in the city, the court directed it to file an affidavit, with specific timeline, indicating a “clear cut action plan” to “completely eliminate” stubble burning next year as it alone produces 17 million tonnes of straw, bulk of which was burned causing a spike in air pollution there as well as here.
On the issue of diesel cabs plying in the city, the court was told by amicus curiae, senior advocate Kailash Vasdev, that of the 1,84,000 taxis in the city, 88,623 were running on diesel. Of these 40,000 were city based while the remaining were all India permit taxis coming from other states.
Observing that what happens in neighbouring states affect Delhi also, the bench directed them to come up with a “clear cut action plan” to “streamline” granting of all India permits to inter-state cabs so that diesel taxis can be turned to CNG, as taxis from there come and go out of the capital.
The municipal authorities, who are responsible for landfill sites, were told to immediately extinguish the fires burning in such areas as smoke rising from there would subject people to “serious health hazards” as they contain particulate matter like PM 2.5 and 10 apart from carcinogens.
Taking “judicial note” of construction sites being not cleared of rubble and debris after completion of work, the court directed the municipal corporations, DDA and Public Works Department (PWD) to take “emergent steps” to minimise air pollution.
It directed the authorities to ensure that “each site is kept debri free” and that there is proper cleaning up of dustand construction rubble.
“If this is done, the particulate matter which comprises construction debri and road dust shall be reduced and we would see an improvement in air quality,” the court said and listed the matter for hearing on November 25.
The bench also suggested that the government should take up the responsibility of setting off fireworks during festivals, like Diwali, as is done in other countries like the US on July 4 every year.
“I wonder why the government does not take over setting off of fireworks. There can be designated places where people can go and watch fireworks, like in USA on July 4 every year. There fireworks are genuine, not these spurious Chinese variety,” it said.
The court, meanwhile, directed the National Capital Region Planning Board to have a meeting in next three weeks on the issue of air pollution and to file a status report on what was decided in the meeting.
“Frankly speaking, this is not our job. It is yours (government and authorities). Why are you not doing anything? Each one of you. Think about the children growing up today. We are surviving because we grew up in a much cleaner environment,” the bench said after the amicus said the “buck stops” with the court and it has to issue directions to ensure reduction in air pollution.
The court was hearing a PIL initiated by it on the issue of alarming levels of air pollution in the national capital.
On November 10, the court had said the alarming pollution level is literally ‘capital punishment’ for Delhiites who are being robbed of three years of their lives due to it.
It had held the government’s inaction and stubble burning in Punjab as being responsible for the situation here.
The court had said that the grave situation was leading to the “decimation” of more than 60 million life years or one million deaths, which it termed as “genocide”.