TWO DAYS before the Delhi Half Marathon, the High Court on Friday suggested that the Delhi government issue an “advisory” regarding the high air pollution levels and its dangers to the public.
“You should warn everyone that pollution levels are high. Anyone with respiratory or cardiac problems may collapse because of exhaustion. You should not be running in this (marathon),” said a bench of Justice Badar Durrez Ahmed and Justice Jayant Nath. The bench added, “If someone can run in Delhi, they can run anywhere.”
The observation came after the court noted that on November 17, the Air Quality Index had shown that PM 2.5 and PM 10 levels were “approximately four times more than the prescribed safe standard”.
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The court also directed the Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan governments to phase out diesel-run taxis and introduce CNG taxis in the NCR. “The All India Taxi Permits granted by these states for taxis to ply inter-state should be streamlined,” said the bench. It was informed that of the 1.9 lakh taxis in Delhi, 80,000 run on diesel, while 35,000 inter-state permit cabs violate the 2001 Supreme Court order — which states that all commercial vehicles in Delhi must run on CNG.
“Why can’t Punjab, Haryana and UP stop giving permits to diesel-run cabs? Their polluting vehicles are also coming to Delhi,” observed the bench. The bench added that ban on diesel taxis could be extended to inter-state buses as well.
“What are you going to do to prevent the burning of paddy straw, and what is your plan of action for All India Permit taxis to move towards CNG?” asked the court.
Refusing to accept the argument that CNG pumps are not available in the other states, the bench has asked for a “clear-cut plan” with “timelines” for introducing CNG stations and phasing out diesel-run taxis from the four NCR states within three weeks.
On the issue of crop stubble burning in Punjab, the bench once again pulled up the state government for not taking steps to stop the practice. “Punjab alone generates 17 million tonnes of rice paddy straw every year, of which only a small percentage is used by cardboard and paper factories. More than 13 million tonnes is being burned. Do we know how much pollution that causes?” asked the bench. The court has also asked the Central Pollution Control Board to conduct a study on the amount of pollutants released from the burning of crop residue and submit a report.
With the recent spike in pollution due to lighting of firecrackers on Diwali, the court suggested that the government could consider giving fewer firecracker licences and designate certain areas for fireworks display.