The Bombay High Court has continued its stay on transportation of construction debris till November 19 saying that although there is “some difference” in the Air Quality Index (AQI) in the last four days, much more needs to be done.
The division bench of Chief Justice DK Upadhyaya and Justice Girish Kulkarni has modified the timing of bursting crackers and allowed the same from 8pm to 10pm. Earlier the HC had permitted bursting of crackers from 7pm to 10pm. Besides, the court has directed the authorities concerned to enforce the direction of the Supreme Court with regard to banning firecrackers containing barium chemical.
“Let’s not become Delhi": Chief Justice DK Upadhyaya
While appreciating Mumbaikars for exercising restrain in bursting crackers, the bench noted that the air quality has not worsened here as it has in the capital. “Let’s not become Delhi. Let’s remain Mumbaikars,” said CJ.
The judges emphasised that the air pollution was not restricted to this year and hence proactive steps need to be taken to mitigate pollution in coming years.
The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) emphasised that they have been taking all the necessary steps to implement the mitigation action plan.
Mitigation Action Plan not yet implemented, reveals BMC affidavit
After going through the affidavit submitted by the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMc), the bench noted that although the civic body had formed the Mitigation Action Plan in March, the same was not being implemented.
Senior advocate Milind Sathe, appearing for the BMC, said that its special squad visited 1623 polluting sites and found 1065 to be non compliant and notices were issued to them.
“What you are doing is fine. But it’s not Good enough. It is not that you are doing a favour to the citizens. You are just doing your duty,” said the CJ. Pointing out BMC’s data, the CJ said: “ Notices have been sent to 1065 sites. See the percentage. So everything is not as rosy as it is being shown. Shows a lot needs to be done.”
Sathe then urged the court to vacate the stay on transportation of debris saying: “There is a noticeable difference. So please relax the order of transportation of debris.”
“Thanks to the rains,” quipped the CJ. While retiring to vacate the stay, the court said: “Figures shown by BMC itself speaks volumes of the alarming situation of the air quality in the city.”
Saraf admitted that the authorities should have waited for the court’s order before taking the air pollution problem seriously. “Everyone should have swung into action… Had it been implemented since then (March), we would not have been here today,” Saraf said.
Justice Kulkarni said that it is not dust mitigation measures that need to be taken, in addition even pollution because of chemicals and vehicular emissions needs to be looked at.
The court emphasised that the “Problem is not confined to this year alone. It (pollution) is to occur every year. Last year, it was for the first time”.
The BMC has been proactive to the problem and had prepared an action plan in March itself. However, the implementation was not there, the court added.
Special website/e-mail address where citizens can lodge complaints
Sathe said that the civic body had already a helpline to enable citizens to lodge their complaints with regards to air pollution to the BMC. The corporation will be creating a special website/mobile app and shall also have a mobile number and e-mail address where the complaints be lodged.
Directing these would be applicable to all municipal corporations, counsels and frank panchayats in the Mumbai metropolitan Region as well. The civic bodies have been asked to publicise the same.
The court has directed the authorities concerned to implement the Supreme Court directives in imposing a ban on firecrackers with chemicals. The SC, while banning such firecrackers in Delhi, had said that the authorities concerned would be held liable responsible and that it would be held for contempt of court.
The HC had formed a committee last hearing comprising IIT and NEERI directors. All municipal officers at the ward level were asked to submit daily reports. The HC, on Friday, modified the members of the committee and included an Expert in the field of environment especially in air pollution, an Expert on air pollution from IIT and a Retired principal secretary.
Attention was drawn to central legislation which Provides for an air pollution monitoring committee for better coordination and research for AQI and related matters.
The court has requested the government to consider forming such a committee so that “the problem of air quality management in Mumbai may be dealt with in a more effective manner”.
The court has said that after November 19, if the AQI does not improve, it will be open for the BMC officers are ward levels to decide on the transportation of debris in their wards.
The HC has kept the matter for hearing on December 11.