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Above: The National Green Tribunal

The National Green Tribunal on Tuesday (November 14) pulled up the Delhi government while hearing its review petition on the odd-even scheme. The government wanted exemption for women and two-wheelers from the scheme, which was denied by the green court, after which the Delhi government, pulled back its petition for further modifications.

The air quality of the Delhi-NCR was again in the “severe” category, on Monday for the second time in the past six days. Even the minimum pollution recorded at places was way higher than the normal levels. Dilshad Garden had the cleanest air with an Air Quality Index as high as 312 whereas according to the US Embassy’s AQI, the city’s PM2.5 stood at above 600. The NGT has called the situation a “health emergency” and has rebuked the government for not taking any prompt action to control the pollution levels.

The Delhi government had called off its Odd-Even scheme on Saturday (November 11), hours after NGT’s approval, majorly because of two reasons—unlike in the last two phases of the scheme, the Tribunal this time, had kept women and two-wheelers out of exemption. The Delhi government while calling off the scheme had called women safety “paramount”. Then, the Delhi government on Tuesday filed a review petition in the green court.

The Tribunal, however, has again refused to grant any exemption to women commuters and two-wheelers. The NGT while striking down exemption for women gave some serious dose of advice and criticism to the Delhi government. The NGT called out the government for not being able to ensure women safety and it also advised the government to start special bus service for women. “This is your inability to provide protection to women in the city. Why can’t you run special buses for women?” asked the Tribunal.

The NGT also pulled up the government over asking exemption for two-wheelers. The Tribunal was earlier informed that two-wheelers are more polluting than four-wheelers—this piece of information led to NGT’s decision to grant them no exemptions. However, the Delhi government later clarified its inability to accommodate the transport crisis which would have followed the order. “When reports have stated that two-wheelers are more polluting than four wheelers, why do you intend to give arbitrary exemptions? Is this a joke?” asked the Tribunal.

The NGT advised the government to take care of the logical explanations for the exemptions when they next approach the bench.

The NGT emphasized strongly over sprinkling of water as an option to bring down the pollution levels. It also said that the government can test the said method by trying it on a specific area. It directed the pollution control board and NCT of Delhi to identify the highly polluted area by 4pm today and to sprinkle water by appropriate methods to bring down the concentration of particulate matters in the air.
“Note the PM concentration after 4 to 6 hours (after sprinkling of water),” advised the Tribunal. The NGT also said that it will withdraw the concerned order if the method proves ineffective.

The NGT expressed its concern for children who will be breathing in this dangerous air. “Don’t gift infected lungs to children. They have to wear masks to school. What constitutes a health emergency according to you?” asked the NGT. After the Indian Medical Association’s request to initiate steps to protect children, the Delhi government had stopped all the outdoor activities in schools. The air entered the “severe” category on Monday when schools reopened after being closed since Thursday due to air pollution.

The NGT has allowed industries involving essential commodities such as food, health and clothes, to carry on their activities. The industries which are abiding with the emission limitations will be allowed to operate with permission from respective authorities.

The matter has been next listed for November 16.

—India Legal Bureau

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