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How do people breathe, asks Supreme Court; summons chief secretaries

AQI inside room in Delhi above 600, Ggm struggles as it crosses 700 mark

How do people breathe, asks Supreme Court; summons chief secretaries

New Delhi: Taking note of toxic air choking the national Capital, the Supreme Court on Friday pulled up the Delhi government over the delay in tackling pollution.

"Why cannot we have a clean Delhi? Evergreen and ever clean," a bench of justices Arun Mishra and Deepak Gupta said and directed the authorities to clear the 13 pollution hotspots in the national Capital within a week.

The top court observed that the odd-even vehicle scheme in Delhi has not been effective in reducing pollution level and the air quality index (AQI) has deteriorated further.

"Delhi is suffering badly. The AQI inside the room is above 600 today. Outside the room, it is worse. How do people breathe," the bench said.

It questioned the Delhi government on the exemptions given; including to two and three-wheelers, during the odd-even scheme and said it is a "half-baked solution".

Additional Solicitor General (ASG) ANS Nadkarni told the bench that the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) has found that odd-even has no effect on the pollution level in Delhi.

The bench asked the Delhi government to suggest steps which could be taken to reduce the pollution which has reached "severe level".

While summoning the four chief secretaries for November 25, the bench said it requires their presence in the court so as to ascertain what steps they have taken to reduce pollution level as well as stubble burning in Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh respectively. It further added that authorities should discharge their duty in public trust so as to combat the problem of pollution. Senior lawyer Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for the Delhi government, said as per study reports, the pollution level has reduced from 5-15 per cent during odd-even scheme. "The real culprit is stubble burning," he added. The bench, however, maintained that stubble burning contributes to around 44 per cent of the total pollution here while the remaining 56 per cent comes from Delhi itself.

Meanwhile, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said the government will take a decision on the extension of the odd-even scheme on Monday.

Gurugram residents continued to struggle for clean air as the AQI docked at 703, which falls in the "severe plus" category on Friday morning, maintained System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting And Research (SAFAR).

More reports on P3

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