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SC raps CPCB, asks is it waiting for pollution related deaths

SC raps CPCB, asks is it waiting for pollution related deaths
“Do you want to wait till people start dying ... people are gasping for breath,” a fuming Supreme Court asked Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) on Thursday, slamming it for not having an action plan ready to deal with the “emergency” smog situation and asking the Centre to come out with time-bound measures to tackle the graded level of worsening air quality.

A three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice T S Thakur pulled up the apex pollution monitoring body for “sluggish” response on the issue even as Solicitor General Ranjit Kumar blamed the implementing agencies for not being able to do what they were required to do to deal with the situation.

“Do you (CPCB) want to wait till people start dying? The response cannot be sluggish. People are gasping for breath.

People are in such a situation and you are waiting,” the bench also comprising Justices A K Sikri and S A Bobde said.

“You must have plans. How will you have spread of stations (to monitor air quality) that will clear the picture? You need to immediately plan as to how many stations will be reasonable, looking into the importance of the situation. You must prepare a plan and tell us,” the bench told CPCB Chairman S P Singh Parihar who was present in the court.

“We want you to take into consideration all the different inputs which are coming and draw a plan where you can have a proper system, a proper centralised control room, a graded level of air quality and also the response to it. You have to evolve a concensus. You must not allow the things to go out of your hands,” the bench said.

The bench passed a slew of directions including a meeting of all stakeholders with CPCB Chairman to be held on November 19 before which they will send their suggestions through e-mail to Parihar who will give personal hearing.

Observing that CPCB does not appear to have any “definite plan” to deal with the issue, the bench said the board, in consultation with government, will prepare a detailed plan specifying what measures have to be taken and which authority will be responsible for implementing those recommendations in a time bound manner to deal with the issue.

The bench said the “emergency plan” will also comprise the measures needed to tackle graded level of pollution and identify how many central pollution control units are required to have a clear picture of the air quality. 

During the hearing, the CPCB chairman told the bench that they have three air monitoring stations at Dwarka, Dilshad Garden and Shadipur Depot in Delhi, while Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC) and Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) had four such stations each.

At the outset, the Solicitor General (SG) told the bench that “all laws and regulations were at place but the implementing agencies were not able to do what they are required to do” to deal with the situation.

However, the bench asked the SG, “is there any centralised control room which monitors the air pollution level? Who is monitoring it? Who is its incharge? What kind of machines are there to check the air quality?” 

To this, the SG placed before the bench a report of air quality index and said the CPCB chairman was present in the courtroom.

The bench then asked the CPCB chairman about it and he responded saying the board was continously monitoring the air quality and pollution level through its three stations here.

The bench shot back and said, “why you have confined it to three stations only? Why not more?” 

Parihar said they need more stations to cover industrial and commercial areas here so that they can have more details about the air quality and the four stations of DPCC and IMD are also monitoring the pollution levels.

“DPCC or IMD is not under your direct control. We want a centralised body so that datas are shared between all. We want the CPCB to establish a number of such stations. We don’t want the CPCB to depend on other agencies,” the bench said.
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