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The National Green Tribunal Monday directed the Health Ministry and Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) to file their responses on a plea moved by no-frill carrier Indigo against its order banning spray of disinfectants in aircraft when passengers are on board.
A bench headed by Justice Jawad Rahim also asked other airlines, who have been made parties in the case, to respond before July 26, the next date of hearing, whether they too were carrying on the practice of spraying insecticides in their aircraft loaded with passengers. During the proceedings, advocate Pinaki Misra, appearing for the budget airline, sought modification of the August 3, 2015, direction and said that monsoons had arrived across India leading to an increase in the breeding of mosquitoes.
He suggested that spraying can be done using a different insecticide (WHO-approved permethrin) instead of insecticide (D-Phenothrin) which was in question in the 2015 proceedings when the NGT had banned all insecticides. The lawyer said that while many countries like the US were spraying disinfectants prior to landing, the passengers here were being subjected to risks of dengue, chikungunya and other deadly diseases.
The budget airline has sought modification of August 3, 2015, directed to the DGCA to ensure that no fumigation is carried out inside a plane when anyone is inside. The fresh petition was filed after the NGT in June refused to modify its direction banning spraying of disinfectants in aircraft when passengers are on board saying there was no “apparent error” in its earlier order.
The tribunal had declined to review its August 2015 order and junked the submission that spraying of Permethrin insecticide does not cause harm to human health. However, it had granted liberty to the airline to file a plea “if the applicant has any substantial question to be raised relating to environment or enforcement of any legal right relating to the environment in the facts and circumstances of the case.”
According to the plea filed by InterGlobe Aviation Ltd-run IndiGo, the airports which are most affected by mosquito problems were Kolkata, Patna, Lucknow, Delhi, Guwahati, Raipur, Ahmedabad, Chennai, Jaipur, Pune, Bengaluru, Dehradun and Bhubaneswar.
It had sought modification of the order to the extent that they are allowed to spray the disinfectant only on “need basis”, if the situation so demands.
“Pass an order to allow upon the express directions of the pilot-in-command of an aircraft and for reasons to be recorded in writing, ‘blocks away’ or ‘top-of-descent’ spraying of insecticide formulations, containing permethrin, on aircarft of all commercial flights of the applicant by the cabin crew of those aircraft, or any other designated officer as instructed by pilot-in-command,” it said.
Heeding to the plea of a United States-based neurologist Dr Jai Kumar, the NGT had directed the Centre to ensure that no disinfectant fumigation is carried out in aircraft while passengers are on board. Kumar had contended that spraying of pesticides on planes with chemicals like phenothrin, an organo-phosphorus neurotoxin, was injurious to human health as there was a risk of causing cancer and auto-immune diseases like lupus, Parkinson’s disease and memory loss.