The Supreme Court on Tuesday warned that the problem of air pollution was very serious and solutions need to be found urgently, rather than in years.
“This pollution problem is very serious. If you talk for years for a solution, then it is a problem,” a bench of Justices M B Lokur and PC Pant said, adding that some of the victims of air pollution are due to inefficient systems and non-implementation of norms. The observation came after amicus curiae and senior advocate Harish Salve said there was a need to ensure 100 per cent compliance of Pollution Under Certificate (PUC) and linking them with the insurance of vehicles done every year.
“The year period is too far. Insurance of vehicle is done annually. We need to find solutions fast,” the bench said and asked Solicitor General Ranjit Kumar, appearing for Centre, to specify the number of PUC centres in Delhi. Kumar said there were 962 such centres in Delhi with each of them inspecting around 5000 vehicles every three months. He said show cause notices have also been issued to some 174 for irregularities, licences of 14 have been cancelled, licences of 75 have been suspended and warning notices issued to 78 such centres.
The bench asked the Centre to furnish a status report regarding show cause notices issued to PUC centres and directed the Environment Pollution Control Authority (EPCA) to inspect all 962 PUC centers and submit the report about their functioning.
The Centre informed the court that consultations among all stakeholders is being done regarding banning of petcoke and furnace oil as industrial fuel in Delhi-NCR region. The SG said reports have been sought from Council of Scientific & Industrial Research (CSIR), National Physical Laboratory, Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas, The Energy and Resource Institute (TERI) and industrial houses with regard to banning of the fuel.
“Report has been sought from various stakeholders and meeting among them is scheduled tomorrow on the issue of banning of petcoke and furnace oil. We need some deliberations among them as industries which are reliant on such fuels needs to adopt some alternatives and government has to issue notification in this regard,” Kumar said. The apex court asked the Centre to file the status report with regard to banning of petcoke and furnace oil on the next date of hearing on February 6.
The apex court also asked the Centre to file an Action Taken Report (ATR) on setting up of real time Air Quality Monitoring Centres in Delhi-NCR region in compliance with apex court’s order. The Solictor General also informed the court that government has notified the Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP) on January 12 in compliance with court’s earlier order. The apex court had on December 2 last year accorded its nod to the GRAP to tackle different levels of pollution. It had also asked the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) to upgrade its existing infrastructure and set up additional monitoring stations in Delhi-NCR within six months.
The Centre had told the apex court that when air pollution reaches alarming proportion, immediate steps were required to be taken including ban on construction activities and implementation of the odd-even scheme. The court had said that enforcement of GRAP shall be under the orders of EPCA and all other authorities should act in aid of such direction.
Salve, who is the amicus curiae in a 1985 PIL filed by environmentalist M C Mehta, had also highlighted the ill- effects of petrcoke and furnace oil used in industries on ambient air and said that the emissions from such units were highly toxic as these released high sulphur. The GRAP, aimed at reducing air pollution, has enumerated a number of measures which include closing brick kilns, hot mix plants, stone crushers, intensifying public transport services besides increase in frequency of mechanised cleaning of road and sprinkling of water on roads.