New Delhi: Observing that the current air pollution levels in the national capital have reached "alarming" proportions and it was akin to "living in a gas chamber", the Delhi High Court Thursday directed the Centre and city government to present comprehensive action plans to combat it.
A bench of justices Badar Durrez Ahmed and Sanjeev Sachdeva termed the action plans filed by the environment ministry and Delhi government as "not comprehensive" as they did not contain specific responsibilities of each authority and the timeline for carrying them out.
It directed them to file comprehensive action plans, which are the need of the hour, by the next date of hearing on December 21.
The court also said two major causes of air pollution in Delhi were dust particles and vehicular emissions and directed the Centre and city governments to ensure no construction of building or roads takes place without first ensuring that generation of dust was minimised.
It also directed the Delhi government to ensure that garbage and leaves are not burned by people in the open, as was directed by the National Green Tribunal, and directed the city administration to publicise in print, audio and visual media that such practices are prohibited.
The court directed the city government to seek action taken reports from sub-divisional magistrates and tehsildars who have been tasked with carrying out surprise inspections with regard to dust generation from construction sites and burning of leaves and garbage.
On emissions from idling vehicles and traffic congestion, police told the court it has identified 14 areas which were seriously congested and decongested them significantly by deploying more personnel and putting up plastic bollards to segregate carriageways and regulate flow of traffic.
With regard to yellow line violations, the court directed traffic police to ensure there was zero tolerance for such incidents and to ensure proper lane driving in Delhi.
"Publicise there would be strict action and fines for violations," it said while hearing a PIL initiated by it on the issue of increasing air pollution in Delhi.
The court also suggested putting in place, in some areas of the city, automatic synchronised traffic light changing system instead of manually operating them to see whether it could reduce idling traffic.
The traffic police, meanwhile, assured the court that meters would be put in place to quantify the flow of vehicles and to see whether the measures being put in place are effective.
The court also directed the traffic police to provide proper protective gear, including masks, to its personnel regulating traffic after an application was moved in this regard.
The plea said that the health of traffic police was being adversely affected due to vehicular emissions.
Another plea was moved seeking directions to the government to curb use of fireworks at weddings and other celebrations as they too cause air pollution.
The court, thereafter, directed the Delhi government to "try and dissuade people from excessive use of fireworks".
With regard to the poor air quality inside the high court building, the bench directed the registry to ensure that air purifiers are put up within two weeks in each court room as well as public access areas.
At the last hearing, the court had observed that neither the Centre nor Delhi government had submitted action plans to tackle air pollution in the city and the national capital region and gave them "one more opportunity" to comply with its directions.
Today, the Centre filed an affidavit indicating the number of meetings it has held with officials of the city government and various authorities where the causes for air pollution were identified and remedial measures suggested.
Delhi government's action plan was centered around the issue of deforestation and maintenance of forest cover.