Delhi Pollution: School closed for a week, work in offices stalled

Delhi Pollution: School closed for a week, work in offices stalled

Hours after the Supreme Court suggested strict and immediate measures to control Delhi’s deteriorating air quality, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal on Saturday announced a slew of measures.

After an emergency meeting to tackle air pollution in the national capital, Kejriwal said schools will remain closed for a week from Monday and classes will continue virtually so that children do not have to breathe polluted air.

Government offices will operate at 100% capacity from home for a week. The CM said that an advisory would be issued to private offices for the work from home (WFH) option as far as possible.

Construction activities will remain prohibited in Delhi from November 14 to 17. The Chief Minister said pollution levels in Delhi were rising due to stubble burning in neighboring states and called upon all stakeholders to work together to tackle it.

Kejriwal told reporters that his government would also present the proposal for the lockdown before the Supreme Court.

“There was a suggestion in the Supreme Court on complete lockdown in Delhi if the (pollution) situation worsens. We are preparing a proposal, which will be discussed with agencies, the Center and will present the plan to the Supreme Court. If If there is a lockdown, then construction, vehicular movement will have to stop,” Kejriwal said.

Terming the rise in air pollution in Delhi-NCR as an “emergency”, the Supreme Court on Saturday suggested a lockdown in the national capital as it asked the Center and the Delhi government to take immediate measures to improve air quality.

The court said that the pollution situation is so bad that people are wearing masks inside their homes.

A bench headed by Chief Justice NV Ramana said there are other causes of pollution such as vehicular emissions, crackers and dust, and burning of stubble is not the solution.

The top court also expressed concern that schools have opened up in the national capital and children are facing severe pollution conditions.

“You estimate that farmers are responsible for this pollution. Seventy per cent. First control the people of Delhi. Where is the effective mechanism to control firecrackers, vehicle pollution etc?” We understand that some percentage is stubble burning. The rest is crackers, vehicular pollution, industry, dust pollution etc. You tell us how to get AQI level from 500 to 200 in Delhi. Take some immediate immediate measures like two-day lockdown,” the bench, also comprising Justices DY Chandrachud and Surya Kant, said.

The top court asked the Center to return on Monday. It also took note of the fact that schools have opened in the national capital and asked the authorities to take immediate measures like stopping vehicles or imposing a lockdown in Delhi.

“You see how bad the situation is that people are wearing masks inside their homes. What steps have you taken?” The bench asked Solicitor General (SG) Tushar Mehta.

“Everyone is fighting their battle with the cooperation of the statutory commission, which exists,” the SG said. He pointed to agricultural management and said that there is external crop residue management along with crop residue management.

“There has been a spurt in stubble burning in Punjab in the last five-six days, the result of which we are seeing here today. Punjab needs to do something and do something in this regard. State governments are instructed that if some stubble If it is burnt then environmental compensation should be imposed. Burning is found in the fields,” Mehta said.

He clarified that he was not even remotely suggesting that only farmers were responsible for air pollution.

“We have nothing to do with which government, be it central or state government. The question is how to control and who is responsible. Immediate steps are needed. How to control the situation in two-three days What is in short – the position of the period,” the bench said.

It said that as far as farmers are concerned, the problem is not to implement orders to stop stubble burning, but to provide incentives to them.

“If you give incentives, why won’t the farmer switch? You cannot implement these things,” the bench said.

The top court said that though machines are available for stubble management, poor farmers cannot afford these machines.

“After the agriculture laws, the land in Uttar Pradesh, Punjab and Haryana is less than three acres. We cannot expect those farmers to buy those machines. Why can’t the central and state governments provide the machines? Take the paper Stubble for use in mills and various other purposes In Rajasthan in winter, stubble can be used for fodder for goats etc.

“Can the officer helping you tell the actual price of the machine after subsidy? Can the farmer afford it? I am a farmer and I know this, the CJI is also from a farming family, he also knows this and My brother (Justice Chandrachud) also knows this,” Justice Kant said.

Mehta informed the bench that the machines are available at 80 per cent concessional rate.

He said that statutory instructions have been issued for the use of paddy straw in thermal plants within 300 km radius of Delhi.

The bench wanted to know whether there was any mechanism to collect the stubble from the fields at the ground level and transport it to the thermal plants.

“What is the economic system for stubble removal? What is the arrangement for ex-situ management to move stubble from farms to thermal power plants?” it asked.

Mehta said the government is hiring agencies and tenders have been floated.

Justice Kant said that after the harvest of the crop, the farmer is compelled to prepare the field for the next season and, therefore, there should be an expedited mechanism.

“It is late monsoon and it is late for farmers. Now they are in a hurry to sow seeds for kharif season for winter wheat. Was any agency nominated for stubble removal in a span of 15 days? ? It is good that your officers have framed this policy but how are you implementing it?” The bench asked.

The SG sought time till Monday to put the details on record.

The top court was hearing a petition filed by environmental activist Aditya Dubey and law student Aman Banka, who had sought a direction to provide free stubble removal machines to small and marginal farmers.

The Supreme Court had earlier raised concerns over the deteriorating air quality in Delhi-NCR and appointed a one-member panel of Justice (Retd) Lokur to oversee the steps taken by neighboring states to stop stubble burning, bypassing the Centre’s objections. Was. , Uttar Pradesh and Haryana.

According to the Central Pollution Control Board, the total AQI in Delhi on Saturday evening was 427. According to government agencies, an AQI between 0-50 is considered good, 51-100 satisfactory, 101-200 moderate, 201-300 poor, 301-400 very poor and 401-500 marked as severe/dangerous. Is.

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