Delhi-NCR: SC to consider EPCA pollution control report

Birds fly as people commute near India's Presidential Palace on a smoggy day in New Delhi (Photo by Reuters)

As the Delhi-NCR faces a public health emergency due to severe deterioration in air quality, the Supreme Court will consider on Monday a special pollution control report filed by a panel appointed by it, the EPCA, and other issues including pollution caused by stubble-burning in the neighbouring states.

The Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority in its report has among other things sought directions to NCR states to take steps to stop burning of waste, toxic emissions from industries and dust from construction sites.

The crucial hearing assumes significance as the Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority on Friday declared a public health emergency in the Delhi-NCR and banned construction activity till November 5 after the pollution level entered "severe plus" category.

Besides the report, the apex court would also consider other issues, including pollution caused by stubble-burning in neighbouring states.

In its report, which would be considered by a bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra, the EPCA has said that though Delhi has been able improve annual air pollution load on the city from 2010 till now, the "city still needs to reduce pollution levels by 65 per cent to meet the national air quality standards".

The EPCA in its "special report on pollution hotspots" in the national capital region (NCR) has identified 14 pollution hotspots -- Okhla Phase 2, Dwarka, Ashok Vihar, Bawana, Narela, Mundka, Punjabi Bagh, Wazirpur, Rohini, Vivek Vihar, Anand Vihar (including Mandoli), R K Puram, Jahangir Puri and Mayapuri.

The report said the EPCA has identified three pollution hot spots in Haryana -- Faridabad 1 and 2, Bahadurgarh and Gurgaon (including Udyog Vihar) - and one each in Uttar Pradesh (Sahibabad) and Rajasthan (Bhiwadi).

"It becomes highly critical to act on these pollution hot spots to control local polluting sources to ensure healthier air in the region," it said.

"These hot spots have been identified by EPCA based on analysis of data from all the air quality monitoring station in the region and verified by site visits by Chairman EPCA, Bhure Lal," the report said.

It said the "biggest problem" is massive quantities of plastic, rubber and other industrial wastes which are found dumped in vacant areas and then being burnt in the open, leading to pollution.

Suggesting ways to deal with the situation, the report said these wastes have to be identified and it should ensured that they are not burnt but removed for processing or incineration.

The panel said the apex court may "direct Delhi, Haryana, UP and Rajasthan to ensure that no waste is burnt in their regions/and that they find methods to remove the piled-up waste in hot spots and to process/incinerate it".

The report said industries emitting visible black smoke from chimney is another source of pollution in the region.

It said there are emission standards for PM (particulate matter), Nitrogen Oxide, Sulphur Oxide and the industries are required to be compliant with them so as to ensure there is no pollution.

The report has sought the court's direction to pollution control boards of Delhi, Haryana, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh to rigorously monitor emissions, especially at night, and take stringent action against any industry found non-compliant or with chimneys with visible smoke.

It said another source of pollution is dust from construction sites and lack of proper disposal of construction and demolition waste.

The report said that though the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change has notified Construction and Demolition Waste Management Rules, 2016 and pollution control boards have been penalising developers for mismanagement of dust in construction sites, "these penalties are not leading to remedial actions – as developers continue to operate with disregard to the pollution that is being caused".

It said the apex court "may direct Delhi, Haryana, Rajasthan and UP to file status report on the penalties imposed; names of repeat offenders and if any project developers have been blacklisted or projects closed down because of noncompliance with dust management rules and guidelines."

The report said that dust from major road projects being undertaken in the NCR is also a source of pollution.

"Road construction without dust management, covering and sprinkling of water (treated waste water) over the site is crucial. These directions have been issued but no visible improvement is seen. The state pollution control boards are imposing penalties but even these are not leading to improvement," the report said.

It said that the top court may direct Delhi, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan to file status report on the non-compliant under-construction road projects.

Regarding handling of waste in the national capital, the report said roughly 80,000 tonnes of plastic and other waste has been sent for incineration and another 8,000 tonnes of such waste has been removed from Shahdara drain.

"However, this is the tip of the iceberg – across the NCR waste is piled up and then burnt. This has become a major source of pollution and urgent remedial action is needed," the report said.

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