As smog chokes City, Supreme Court steps in

Bench says it will deal with this matter

The Supreme Court on Tuesday expressed concern over a thick cover of smog enveloping the national capital for the past few days.

A three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice Altamas Kabir indicated that it would take up the issue of rising pollution in the city, even as hospitals reported an unusual stream of patients complaining of respiratory problems.

“We are concerned with the level of smog in the city. With each passing day, the smog level is rising. Everyday we are also hearing about the rising level of pollution in the city.

We will deal with the matter,” the bench, also comprising Justices S S Nijjar and J Chelameswar, said.

The court was hearing a PIL concerning contamination of ground water after the 1984 Bhopal gas tragedy and disposal of toxic waste.

Advocate Vijay Panjwani, appearing for the Central Pollution Control Board, attributed the phenomenon to an alarming increase in the number of vehicles particularly those run on diesel in the city.

The phenomenon of smog in the city has left people with common complaints of cough, cold and irritation in the eyes and skins. Besides, some have also experienced breathing problems.

Respiratory troubles

Smoggy conditions have been prevailing in the Capital for the last 10 days. Doctors say it is unusual for this time of the year. They fear that with Diwali approaching, situation might get worse for patients prone to respiratory disorders.

“This is perfect weather for respiratory problems. The number of cases we receive in our emergency ward have increased considerably. We are seeing many patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease,” said Dr Rajkumar, faculty, department of respiratory allergy, Vallabhbhai Patel Chest Institute.

He said even people without a history of pulmonary problems, were complaining of cough and pharyngitis. “I am treating a huge number of such patients these days. Generally also, people are complaining of uneasiness in breathing,” said Dr Kumar.

“It is not the cold weather alone, but combination of fog with high pollution level which is impacting people's health,” said Dr Kumar. “Dust particles can't go up due to fog. They have engulfed the entire space, increasing the problems of allergic patients.”

Dr Navin Kishore, specialist of chest and tuberculosis at Max super-speciality hospital said, in the last one week, cases of respiratory diseases have increased by 40 per cent. “We are receiving 30 to 40 per cent more cases these days in our out patient department. This Diwali, the sky is going to be black if crackers are burst without restrain,” said Dr Kishore.

The MeT department said the smog might vanish in next two days.

 The Centre for Science and Environment said the smog will return later due to rising pollution levels. Researchers believe that though every winter leads to a heavier pollution load on Delhi, the Capital is seeing a massive growth in ‘actual pollution levels’ this year.

According to them, level of respirable particulate matter (PM10) have surged 47 per cent, from 191 microgramme per cubic metre in 2000 to 281 microgramme per cubic metre in 2011.

During the same period, nitrogen dioxide levels have also increased from 41.8 microgrammes per cubic metre to 66 microgrammes per cubic metre (a 57 per cent jump).

According to executive director in charge of the air pollution and transportation programme at the CSE, Anumita Roy Chowdhury, it is unfortunate to dismiss the problem as a mere weather phenomenon despite scary rise in pollution and health risks.

“In other parts of the world, governments issue warnings and take pollution emergency measures to protect public health. But we do nothing,” she said. However, the Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC) rubbished CSE’s allegations. It said external forces like plummeting temperatures, enhanced humidity levels because of the cyclonic storm Nilam and fire in fields of Uttar Pradesh and Punjab are possible factors for the smog.

Member secretary of DPCC, Sandeep Mishra said pollution is everyday phenomena, but due to peculiar weather it is not getting dispersed.

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