The Delhi government on Monday, 15 November, told the Supreme Court (SC) that it was ready to impose a complete lockdown in Delhi to control air pollution.
However, it would be effective only if a lockdown was imposed in the National Capital Region (NCR) areas across neighbouring states, the Delhi government added, according to LiveLaw.
Accordingly, it has submitted an affidavit before the top court stating the same to control local emissions if it is mandated for the entire NCR area by the Government of India.
"Given Delhi's compact size, a lockdown would have limited impact on the air quality regime," the affidavit stated, according to NDTV.
Delhi Environment Minister Gopal Rai had earlier said that the state government would be submitting a proposal on clampdown measures to contain pollution to the apex court on Monday.
This came after apex court referred to the rise in Delhi's pollution levels as an 'emergency situation' and suggested the Delhi government to implement curbs in the capital.
Pulling up the Delhi government on Monday, Chief Justice NV Ramana asked: "What drastic measures are you taking? Forget affidavits. Road dust... what are you doing on that?"
In response to this, the Delhi government's advocate said that the mayor of Municipal Corporation of Delhi, which is Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-ruled, can file an affidavit stating how many road sweeping machines are required. Reacting to this, the CJI said, "Are you trying to put the blame on municipal corporations? Are you trying to pass the buck?"
Justice Surya Kant further said, "These kinds of lame excuses will force us to hold a proper audit of the revenues you are earning and spending on popularity slogans."
Stubble Burning Accounts for Only 10% of Delhi Pollution: Centre in SC
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta on Monday said that the Union government has now come to the conclusion that stubble burning is not the primary cause of pollution and that it accounts for only 10 percent of Delhi's air pollution.
"Now cat is out of the bag. Farmers' stubble burning is contributing only 4 percent," said Justice DY Chandrachud, calling it insignificant.
SG Mehta, appearing for the Centre in the SC, said that road dust contributes to the pollution and that all brick kilns and hot mix plants must remain closed in Delhi.
The Centre stated that there can be three steps to reduce pollution in Delhi: Introduction of odd-even vehicle scheme, ban on the entry of trucks into the national capital, and the severest of them, a lockdown.
Having heard the counsels, the SC observed that the major culprits of air pollution were transport, industries, and vehicular traffic, apart from stubble burning in some areas.
Accordingly, the SC asked the Centre and state governments to respond by Tuesday evening over which industries can be stopped, which vehicles can be prevented from plying and which power plants can be halted.
"The commission under the act has not indicated what steps will be taken to control the pollution-causing elements. We direct the Centre to have an emergency meeting tomorrow and take into accounts points cited by us," Chief Justice of India NV Ramana said, according to LiveLaw. The chief secretaries of Punjab, UP, and Haryana have to be present for the meeting, the CJI added.
"Broadly all affidavits indicate that stubble burning does not cause much pollution but even then good amount is taking place in Haryana and Punjab. We request state governments to pursue the farmers to stop the burning for a week."– CJI Ramana in SC on Monday
The CJI also directed the Centre and the states of the NCR region to impose work from home for the meantime.
The matter has now been listed for Wednesday in the apex court.
Measures Taken Amid Poor Air Quality
The Delhi government has already announced the closure of offline schools, colleges and other educational institutions where examinations are not underway for a week, beginning Monday.
Further, all government offices, agencies, etc, except those involved in essential work, have been directed to implement work from home. No construction and demolition activity is allowed till 17 November.
Air Quality Improves on Sunday
Delhi's air quality visibly improved on Sunday, 14 November, with the air quality index being recorded as 'very poor' after being in the 'severe' category for the past few days, news agency PTI reported.
On Sunday, the national capital's 24-hour average air quality index (AQI) was 330, over a 100 lesser than the average of 437 recorded the previous day.
On Sunday, as per the India Meteorological Department data, visibility levels were reported to be between 1,500 to 2,200 metre at the Indira Gandhi International Airport and 1,000 to 1,500 metre at the Safdarjung airport, PTI reported.
More than 3,400 farm fires contributed to 12 percent of Delhi's PM2.5 pollution on Sunday, a decrease from 31 percent on the previous day, PTI reported.
According to SAFAR, if this trend continues, the AQI in Delhi might continue to improve in the next couple of days owing to the curbs on anthropogenic activities.
Delhi had recorded the worst AQI in this season so far at 471 on Friday, 12 November.
(With inputs from PTI, NDTV, and LiveLaw.)