Declare lockdown: Supreme Court suggests as Delhi AQI likely to turn hazardous
New Delhi/UNI: Taking a grim view of the "severe" air pollution continuing in Delhi-NCR, the Supreme Court on Saturday said "urgent measures needed immediately", after the Solicitor General Tushar Mehta told top court "ambient air condition may turn to emergency levels".
A three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice NV Ramana and comprising Justices DY Chandrachud and Surya Kant, asked the Centre to take immediate measures to address the situation after discussing with the concerned state governments.
The apex court, during the course of the hearing said Delhi government has opened schools and small children are being exposed to severe air pollution. "Have you taken any step to close the schools or address the situation? What happened to the smog towers you were to put up? Are they working," the bench asked.
The top court also said if needed, "please declare two-day lockdown to bring down the pollution caused by vehicle emission, firecrackers, industries and dust particles".
CJI Ramana asked the central government to apprise it by Monday as to what kind of steps it will take to address the emergency situation. "Tell us how immediately we can reduce Air Quality Index by 200 points," CJI told Mehta.
"We have been forced to wear masks at home also, the situation is very serious," the CJI observed.
The Supreme Court also asked the Centre to ask Punjab and Haryana to stop stubble burning for at lease two days to bring down pollution as Mehta said that the situation may not improve till November 17.
The court also asked the Centre to inform by November 15, the measures it would take to address the emergency situation caused by the "severe" air pollution.
The Supreme Court was hearing the petition filed by Aditya Dubey, seeking appropriate directions and or orders to the authorities concerned to tackle the pollution in Delhi and National Capital Region.
There was a thick layer of smog engulfing the entire region with AQI in the national capital on Saturday once again crossing the 500-mark at many places, according to the India Metrological Department (IMD).
Almost all stations across Delhi-NCR recorded the AQI in the 'severe' category. In some areas, the air quality touched the 'hazardous' category.
In Lodhi Road area AQI was 476, at IIT Delhi 479 and in the Delhi University's north campus 578.
An AQI between zero and 50 is considered 'good', between 51 and 100 is 'satisfactory', between 101 and 200 is 'moderate', and between 201 and 300 is 'poor', 301-400 is 'very poor', and between 401 and 500 is 'severe'.
In its morning bulletin, IMD said: "The air quality over Delhi -NCR is likely to remain in the upper end of very poor to a severe category on November 13 and November 14. Slow winds during day times and calm winds during evening/night are extremely unfavorable for dispersion of pollutants. The unfavorable meteorological conditions are likely to prevail for next 5 days."
"The AQI today is in the severe category and is likely to be the same on Sunday due to increase in stubble related fire counts and increase in transport level (925 mb) wind speed during the night" said the System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting And Research, (SAFAR).
The agency said the effective fire count increased to 4,056 and share of crop residue burning is about 35% in PM2.5. "Winds at transport level are likely to reduce from 13th evening leading to less transport of pollutants from the upwind region to Delhi. A few locations in Delhi witnessed PM10 as the major pollutant (instead of PM2.5), which could be due to an increase in relative humidity locally," it added.
According to the Centre Pollution Control Board, (CPCB) the 24-hour average concentration of lungs damaging fine partials known as PM2.5 stood at 491 micrograms per cubic meter in the morning at 8 am, The PM10 level was recorded at 490 Micrograms cubic meters.
The central pollution watchdog on Friday advised people to avoid going outdoors and directed government and private offices to reduce vehicle usage by at least 30 per cent due to severe air pollution in the national capital.
The air quality is considered to be in the 'emergency' category if the PM2.5 and PM10 levels continue to be above 300 micrograms per cubic metre and 500 micrograms per cubic metre respectively for 48 hours or more.