The Supreme Court on Monday ordered to provide an all India plan to handle the air pollution turmoil and demanded firm deadlines from the Environment Pollution Control Authority (EPCA) to release a multi-pronged strategy which may not be limited only to shutting down industries and construction in response to deteriorating quality of air or intermittent implementation of the controversial odd-even scheme.
“Where are the timelines? It is not enough to have emergency measures which are reactive to a crisis,”
a bench, comprising Justices Madan B. Lokur and Deepak Gupta,
observed during a hearing on a long-term graded response to deal with the polluting of the environment that has engulfed Delhi-NCR.
The bench also observed that the problem was not Delhi-specific. “What about other regions of the country?” Justice Deepak Gupta argued. He cited the examples of other cities of north India and Bihar.
The bench asked EPCA to come back with firm deadlines of its strategies which covers a switch to cleaner fuels by industry, better enforcement of emission norms, and an overhauling of the public transport system by November 17 – the next date of hearing – when amicus curiae Aparajita Singh said all measures so far had helped curb pollution only by 15-20%.
The apex court was hearing a plea by small and medium industries for stretching the deadline to change from ecologically damaging fuels such as pet coke and furnace oil widely used in NCR.
The bench refused to give any interim relief to the industries, but said it would pass orders as the amicus, assisting the court in tackling the smog problem, maintained that they could switch to better energy sources that exist in tons.
The bench also clarified that its ban on the utilization of such fuels covered all the states which had territory in NCR, which includes Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, and Haryana.
In the first hint of a rethink on the efficacy of the odd-even system to deal with deteriorating quality of air, the apex court was also told of an alternative EPCA plan to reduce vehicular pollution blamed for the degrading quality of air in Delhi NCR.
The program was suggested during the hearing was a color-coded scheme which will ensure that the most polluting vehicles get off the road first in response to a crisis. Amicus Singh advised the EPCA plan to the bench.