New Delhi: The National Green Tribunal today took state governments to task for not taking a clear stand on pollution and vehicle density in major cities in their jurisdiction and directed them to produce the information by tomorrow failing which bailable warrants will be issued against chief secretaries.
The green panel directed Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Punjab, West Bengal to apprise it about cities which have worst ambient air quality, total number of vehicles along with their bifurcation (diesel/petrol) and the total population in each city.
The tribunal also rapped Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) for submitting “half-baked” data on the population and vehicle density in major cities across the country. The CPCB report has indicated that ambient air quality in most of the cities was beyond permissible standards.
“What kind of report is this? You (CPCB) have given us a half-baked data. We had asked you about vehicle density. How many vehicles are diesel and petrol? According to your report, Mumbai has a population of 11 lakhs. This is the joke of the first category.
“Your report says Delhi has 245 vehicles per km. There are thousands of vehicles per km in the capital, what kind of report is this. Today, you can even see a Fiat car of 1960 on the road. People in Delhi still have their Maruti 800 driving around,” a bench headed by NGT Chairperson Justice Swatanter Kumar said while hearing a case related to air pollution.
The tribunal also directed Delhi RTO to appear before it and inform it about the total number of vehicles in the national capital along with their break-up. At the outset, the NGT inquired the counsels appearing for Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh about the most polluted city in their states.
“Which city has maximum cars? Tell us the worst city in your state in terms of ambient air quality” the bench asked.
When the counsels failed to give a clear reply and sought time to seek instructions the bench got infuriated. “Everyday you (states) say we want to seek instructions. We want clear stand on ambient air quality, human population and vehicle density.
“If the states fail to produce the data by tomorrow, we will issue bailable warrants against the chief secretaries of all states. You have made a joke of our orders. Be prepared to face consequences now,” the bench warned.
During the hearing, Sanjay Kulshreshtha, a doctor based in Agra and co-petitioner in the case, said various steps like car pooling, odd-even etc. have been taken by authorities to curb the menace of air pollution but they were not sufficient to improve the air quality.
He said the Supreme Court has banned registartion of high-end, luxury diesel cars and SUVs with engine capacity of more than 2000 cc.
But that alone would not serve the purpose and the ban should be extended to all diesel vehicles, he said, adding that he has also filed an application with regard to this in the apex court.
Noting that the air quality in metropolises was in violation to the prescribed standards, the tribunal had directed the apex pollution monitoring body to file comprehensive data on the population and vehicle density in major cities across the country.
The tribunal had taken note of air pollution in Mumbai, Kolkata, Bangalore, Patna, Lucknow, Allahabad, Kanpur, Varanasi, Nagpur, Chennai, Hyderabad, Ludhiana, Jalandhar, Amritsar and Pune and directed states to file a comprehensive affidavit stating the steps taken by them for prevention and control of air pollution.
The tribunal, which was restrained by the Supreme Court from dealing with matters on air pollution in Delhi, had earlier expanded the ambit of hearing by seeking responses on worsening air quality in metropolises like Mumbai, Kolkata and Chennai.
On December 18 last year, the tribunal had refused to vacate its order banning registration of new diesel-run vehicles, saying it won’t interfere with the Supreme Court order which has taken a similar stand.
In contrast to the prior NGT order banning registration of all diesel vehicles, the Supreme Court on December 16 exempted small ones and specified that the diesel-run SUVs and cars having engine capacity beyond 2000 cc would not be registered in Delhi and National Capital Region.