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“Do you want to wait till people start dying?” the Supreme Court on Thursday asked the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), observing that there did not seem to be any plan of action to take suitable measures to deal with the worsening air quality.
“The response cannot be sluggish. People are gasping for breath. People are in such a situation and you are waiting,” said a bench led by Chief Justice of India T S Thakur, when it was apprised that there was no centralised system to monitor the ambient air quality and take remedial measures accordingly.
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“You must have plans. How will you have spread of stations (to monitor air quality) that will clear the picture? You need to immediately plan as to how many stations will be reasonable (sic),” the bench told CPCB chairman S P Singh Parihar.
The bench, fixing a meeting of CPCB chairman with representatives of other government departments, environmentalists and some citizens, asked Parihar to take into consideration various inputs and draw up a plan for putting it in place. “You must have a proper centralised control room, a graded level of air quality and also the response to it,” it said.
The CPCB chairman told the bench that they have three air monitoring stations at Dwarka, Dilshad Garden and Shadipur Depot in Delhi, while Delhi Pollution Control Committee and Indian Meteorological Department have four such stations each.
Placing satellite images of stubble burning in Punjab, Solicitor General Ranjit Kumar told the bench, “We have a plan that will bring down air quality to moderate level from January-end. There are a slew of measures on traffic and construction activities to reduce pollution.”
Kumar added that on November 4, there were 1,155 cases of stubble burning in Punjab while on November 5, there were 1,018. Seeking some time to draft a strategy, the SG said the government was contemplating subsidy to the farmers to buy machines.