No odd-even if you don’t have data to prove its usefulness, NGT tells Delhi govt
Traffic policemen wear masks to protect themselves from air pollution in New Delhi | PTI
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The AAP government claims the decision to roll out the scheme is in line with graded response plan notified by the Centre.

New Delhi: Calling the ‘odd-even’ scheme a farce, the National Green Tribunal said Friday that it will not allow the Delhi government to implement the scheme if the latter doesn’t present data backing its effectiveness.

The NGT brought forward its hearing on Delhi’s air pollution problem from 14 November to Friday following the AAP government’s announcement that it would roll out the odd-even scheme from Monday.

When the green court asked the government to provide data showing effectiveness of the road-rationing scheme, the latter said that the decision was in line with the graded action plan notified by the Centre.

The environment ministry had in January this year issued a notification based on the graded action plan recommended by the Environment Pollution Control Authority, stating that the odd-even scheme needs to be put in place when the PM 2.5 level exceeds 300 microgram per cubic metre.

However, the NGT wondered why the odd-even scheme is being implemented now, only for five days, when the PM 2.5 level breaching the 300 mark has become a regular phenomenon? Justice Swatanter Kumar, chairperson of NGT, suggested that Delhi government should clarify whether this scheme would be applied every time the PM 2.5 level exceeds 300.

NGT also raised the contention about exempting two-wheelers from this policy when they are responsible for 33 per cent of the total vehicular pollution in Delhi.

Stressing the issue of shortage of buses, NGT, however said that if extra buses plied are diesel-run ones, then they will cause more harm than good.

Experts say odd-even is an emergency measure, but not a long-term solution. “It’s a reactive measure in response to high levels of air pollution, and that’s why it was included in the graded action plan,” said Polash Mukerjee, senior researcher at the Centre for Science and Environment.

“But for it to be successful, it needs to be supplemented before and after by certain long-term measures notably in the area of public transport. That is where Delhi is severely lacking in as there has been no effort to procure more buses or to shore up public transport routes,” he added.

Mukerjee, however, pointed out that any emergency measure should apply to all, and there should not be any exemption. “You can’t have emergency with exceptions,” he added.

The tribunal also asked whether the authorities have constituted committees to check violations of the construction ban in the city. It gave fresh directions to form such committees and ensure prompt action.

Some industries requested the court that essential industrial activities such as disinfecting the linen for hospitals, among others, should be allowed to continue. The court agreed to this, saying they needn’t stop unless the emission level from these industries is low. A committee will check this and if it is satisfied with the emission levels, then such industries can continue to function, the tribunal said.

“The court also ordered that deputy commissioners and officials concerned in Punjab, Haryana and UP will be held responsible if there is any incident of crop residue burning reported forthwith. Penalty will be imposed and will be recovered from the erring officials,” said advocate Rahul Kurana, member of the NGT bar association, representing the state of Haryana.

Meanwhile, NGT will hold a special hearing at 11am Saturday for the government to provide a response and take a final call on the odd-even scheme.

 

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