New Delhi: The Supreme Court today said a “comprehensive” plan was needed to deal with the problem of severe air pollution in Delhi-NCR and asked the Environment Pollution Control Authority (EPCA) to look at long term measures to tackle the problem. When the apex court-appointed EPCA referred to its recent report on air pollution crisis in the Delhi-NCR, the top court said it was a “reactive report” and there was a need to have a comprehensive plan to tackle the issue. “There is a problem. Yours is a reactive report. Some time when there is an emergency, people can react. You (EPCA) also need to look at some long term or short term measures. Some comprehensive plan is needed,” a bench comprising Justices M B Lokur and Deepak Gupta said.
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The bench said the comprehensive plan should be made not only based on pollution level in Delhi NCR but should focus on the entire country. “It must not be based for Delhi only. Reports say cities like Patna and Raipur are more polluted,” the bench observed.
EPCA’s counsel told the court that the comprehensive plan would cover the entire country and it would be a model plan for states other than Delhi.
The authority also said they have given suggestions on the issue of pollution and were working on several other measures. The apex court made it clear that its order banning use of pet coke and furnace oil by industries from November 1 in Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Rajasthan was applicable to the three states entirely and not limited to the areas falling under the NCR.
Additional Solicitor General Atmaram Nadkarni, appearing for the Centre, told the bench that the government was in support of the apex court’s order banning use of pet coke and furnace oil from November 1 in Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Rajasthan.
We are supporting the ban on use of pet coke and furnace oil for at least three months,” he said, adding that the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) was already looking into these aspects. To this, the bench asked, “what about the impact of (air pollution) on health of people?
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Responding to this, Mr Nadkarni said that citizens have a right to live life with good health. During the hearing, an advocate, appointed as an amicus curiae in the matter, claimed that nothing has been done by the Centre to tackle the issue of air pollution.
“What are they (Centre) talking about? Are they aware of what is happening to the people of Delhi-NCR,” the counsel said, adding it was “shameful” that a US-based airline has cancelled flights to Delhi due to pollution.
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The bench also observed that not only one measure, but a series of measures have to be taken to deal with the issue of air pollution. The court also heard arguments on behalf of industries which use pet coke and furnace oil, seeking relaxation from the ban order.
The bench said the matter of ban on use of pet coke and furnace oil was an issue which was separate from fixing of emission standards for industries using them. It said that fixing of emission standards for industries using pet coke and furnace oil would be applicable for the entire country and not be limited to Delhi or NCR alone. The counsel appearing for these industries said a workable solution has to be found so that it neither affects the environment nor the livelihood of those working in such industries.
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The apex court had earlier asked the Centre to respond to the pleas filed by the group of industries seeking reasonable time to implement its order banning the use of furnace oil and pet coke in the three states to curb pollution.
The court had on October 24 banned the use of pet coke and furnace oil in three states from November 1 while keeping in view the pollution levels in Delhi-NCR and noting that these states had no objection to it. The use of pet coke and furnace oil is already prohibited in Delhi. The court was hearing a PIL filed in 1985 by environmentalist M C Mehta who had raised the issue of air pollution in the Delhi-NCR.
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