Talking tough on pollution in Delhi, the Supreme Court Monday asked the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) to prosecute government officials for not acting on around 250 complaints received by it from citizens.
The court said this on a day when monitoring stations in the national capital recorded air quality in the “very poor” category.
A bench of Justices Madan B Lokur and Deepak Gupta said officials who have failed to act on the complaints were required to be prosecuted.
“Why don’t you prosecute these officials? You should prosecute them. Let these people realise what they have done,” the bench told Additional Solicitor General A N S Nadkarni, who was appearing for the CPCB.
Nadkarni said from November 1-22 this year, the CPCB received 749 air pollution complaints on their social media accounts and action was taken on around 500 such complaints.
Regarding the court’s suggestion to prosecute the officials responsible for not acting on the complaints, he said the CPCB would look into it.
The CPCB on November 1 told the apex court it has created social media accounts on Twitter and Facebook where citizens could lodge their complaints about pollution in the Delhi-National Capital Region (NCR).
In an affidavit filed in the court, which is seized of matters related to pollution in Delhi-NCR, the CPCB said that “of 749 complaints received on social media and e-mails till November 22, 2018, about 500 complaints (67 per cent of the total) were attended by 52 teams of CPCB while associating with clean air campaign during November 1-10, 2018”.
It further said that the teams continued “similar campaign on its own on November 13 and November 20 exclusively to attend the air pollution complaints received on social media and e-mails. Remaining 249 complaints have been assigned to respective nodal agencies and are in the process of getting resolved”.
The affidavit said as per analysis of complaints during the clean air campaign, the highest number of air pollution incidents related to construction and demolition activities, followed by burning of waste, road dust, unpaved areas/roads, traffic congestion and industrial emissions.
In continuation of the opening of social media accounts on October 29, the affidavit said the CPCB has set up a separate cell for management of citizen’s complaints on social media being received through Facebook, Twitter, e-mails and CPCB’s website since November 5.
“Complaints received at social media accounts namely Twitter and Facebook have to be resolved by respective nodal agencies who are responsible for taking appropriate action,” it said.
“An efficient mechanism for resolving the complaints through social media can be ensured through respective nodal agencies when they open their official social media accounts and follow the account created by CPCB so that the complaints received at CPCB end can be forwarded to respective agencies. Action taken by agencies can be informed to the complainant on the same platform,” the affidavit said.
It said that on October 31, an e-mail was sent to the nodal agencies to create their own social media accounts so that complaints received at by the CPCB could be attended by them and the CPCB had also held four review meetings in November with the representatives of the nodal agencies.
It said that as on November 24, 18 nodal agencies have provided their social media accounts to CPCB which included the Haryana State Pollution Control Board, National Highway Authority of India, Delhi Traffic Police, Delhi Transport Department, Delhi Metro Rail Corporation, Delhi Development Authority, Gurgaon Municipal Corporation, Uttar Pradesh Pollution Control Board and the three municipal corporations of Delhi.
It said that “between November 1, 2018 to November 22, 2018, CPCB has received 749 air pollution complaints on social media and website accounts which represents 479 complaints from Twitter account, 65 from Facebook and 205 are e-mails/website complaints”.
The CPCB said that in order to prioritize action on complaints received through social media, the board has started attending to complaints through its field teams by sending them to areas hit by air pollution.
The affidavit said the CPCB has acknowledged receipt of complaints and also conveyed information on action taken to complainants through social media as well as e-mails.
“The inspecting teams of CPCB have taken spot measures such as dousing of fire by calling fire-tenders, covering of construction material, instructions to responsible persons, issuance of challans etc during the campaign. Some complaints were also lodged on Sameer App for necessary action by nodal agencies,” it added.
Sameer App provides hourly update of national air quality index (AQI).
The CPCB also said that based on the feedback received from clean air campaign, chairman of the board had issued directions under the provision of the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 to various nodal agencies including the local authorities in Delhi-NCR responsible for control of air pollution incidents.
“Show cause directions were also issued to nodal agencies indicating the intent to initiate criminal prosecution under section 15 of the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 in case of failure to act in controlling air pollution incidents,” it said.