SC calls for multi-pronged policy to tackle Delhi pollution

New Delhi, Dec 10 (IANS) The Supreme Court on Thursday said that the alarming problem of air pollution in Delhi could be tackled through a multi-pronged policy and ad hoc solutions would not be helpful.

“The absence of a policy (to tackle the growing air pollution) reflects on our ability to cope with the problem,” said a bench of Chief Justice T.S. Thakur and Justice R. Banumathi.

“You are earning a bad name. Delhi is the most polluted city in the world. Last week, a judge had come from the International Court of Justice and it was embarrassing for us to tell him that this is the level of pollution in Delhi,” said Chief Justice Thakur.

The bench also asked the city’s municipal bodies to be ready with an alternate arrangement to collect toll and environment compensation charge (ECC) as the existing contractor – SMYR Consortium Ltd – had expressed difficulties in discharging the additional responsibility.

The court asked the government to provide a platform where all stakeholders including municipal bodies, the Delhi government, Central Pollution Control Board and others could come together for formulating short-term, medium-term and long-term policies to address the issue.

Asking all the parties to give their suggestions, the court directed further hearing of the matter on Tuesday.

In the course of the hearing, senior counsel Harish Salve suggested that the registration of diesel cars should be limited or alternately the economic benefits for having a diesel car should be removed.

“The people will have to be told that it is not a good option to buy a diesel car,” he told the court pointing out that there has be short term, medium term and long term solution of air-pollution in the city.

Observing that the diesel cars were one dimension of the problem, the court wanted to know the pollution being contributed by trucks.

“All aspects of vehicles contributing to air pollution must be addressed,” Chief Justice Thakur told Salve.

Additional Solicitor General Pinki Anand told the court that every day more than 60,000 trucks were entering Delhi and about 30,000 of them are meant for Delhi.

As SMYR Consortium LLP indicated that it may not eventually walk out of the contract, the court said that imposing of ECC by the court might have increased the work of toll collector and could approach the Delhi government about to what extent it should be reimbursed for to meet the cost of collecting the ECC.

As senior counsel Shyam Divan addressed the court on the difficulties being encountered by the SMYR Consortium LLP including invoking of its bank guarantees by the municipal bodies on account of fall in toll collection by 30 percent due to the imposition of court-levied ECC, the court said: “Your concern, your problems are totally irrelevant.”

The SMYR Consortium Ltd collects toll on behalf of three of Delhi’s civic bodies on 125 entry point except for Badarpur and NOIDA toll.

In an attempt to curb the commercial vehicles contributing to the already alarming air pollution, the apex court had on October 9 imposed an ECC of Rs.700 on light vehicles and 2 axle trucks and Rs.1,300 on 3 and 4 axle trucks entering the national capital in the course of their onward journey.

Imposed for four months on experimental basis, it would remain in force till February 29, 2016.

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