• NGT orders to shut power plants and construction on bad air days

    November 11, 2016

    The National Green Tribunal said on Thursday that whenever air pollution reaches severe levels, Delhi and its four neighbouring states would have to take a set of emergency measures that include sprinkling water from choppers, stopping construction activities and shutting down polluting power plants and gensets.

    Passing a host of directions to tackle air pollution in Delhi and its neighbourhood, the NGT also asked for the setting up of a central and five state-level monitoring committees to check implementation of its orders and form action plans to check pollution.

    "When PM 2.5 and PM 10 levels cross 251 and 431 microgramscubic metre, it is an 'environment emergency' and states would have to take measures to tackle the situation. In other situations, normal measures will continue to be implemented," said a bench headed by NGT chairperson Swatanter Kumar.

    The NGT said farmers must be given "happy seeders" — machines that sow wheat without burning paddy residues — to prevent crop fires. During the period of severe air pollution, all construction, transport of construction material and stone-crushing activities must be stopped. States would also have to shut down power plants, hot-mixers, brick kilns and diesel generator sets whose emissions are above the prescribed limit, the National Green Tribunal said in its interim order.

    The green court further directed the state governments to gradually shift to mechanised cleaning of roads by purchasing vacuum machines."Cleaning of dust manually should be stopped in a gradual manner and mechanised cleaning through machines should be introduced to reduce dust levels," the bench said.

    It asked the four neighbouring states of Delhi — Haryana, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan — to consider banning diesel vehicles older than 10 years while directing Delhi to ensure strict implementation of its orders on diesel vehicles.

    Corporations, development agencies and the government departments concerned would continue to deploy 50% of their staff on field duty to check implementation of NGT orders. "We have observed that 3 lakh litres of petrol and diesel is burnt in NCT Delhi every day by stationary vehicles in traffic jams. Committees should look at this aspect as well," the bench said.
    The tribunal pulled up the Delhi government for not following its orders on installing air purifiers. "We had specifically asked you to install air filters in the schools for children. Why didn't you do it?" State monitoring committees should meet every month and make action plans to be implemented on the ground, the bench said. These committees would also have to file field reports. The central committee would meet once every two months and ensure that the state panels are implementing the tribunal's orders. They can further give directions to state committees to take certain measures.

    According to the order, every state committee in its first meeting should notify one district where land use of agriculture is high and make it a model district for implementing orders to stop stubble burning.

    The first meeting of the state committees should be held on November 24, while the central committee should meet on November 17 in Delhi, it said.


    The steps currently taken are miniscule compared to the mammoth of a problem we have in pollution these days in the Capital. If half the population has to survive day in and day out with pollution masks as though living in a gas chamber, the government should realize it’s high time they start thinking out of the box and devise a practical solution for the problem at hand.

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