Against the backdrop of deteriorating air quality, the Supreme Court on Wednesday re-imposed an interim ban on construction activities in Delhi-NCR, while telling the government that instead of waiting for air quality to deteriorate, it should “do advance planning, based on anticipated levels of air pollution in the foreseeable future”.
A bench headed by Chief Justice N.V. Ramana and comprising Justices D.Y. Chandrachud and Surya Kant said: “In the meantime, as an interim measure and until further orders, we re-impose the ban on the construction activities in the NCR.”
However, non-polluting activities relating to construction such as plumbing work, interior decoration, electrical work and carpentry are allowed to be continued, and the states shall use the funds which have been collected as labour cess for the welfare of construction workers to provide them subsistence for the period during which construction activities are prohibited and pay wages notified under the Minimum Wages Act for the respective categories of workers, it said.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta submitted that a plan for graded response has been prepared in pursuance of which measures are identified to be taken progressively on the basis of worsening levels of ambient air pollution. The bench was informed that the graded response plan which has been formulated envisages that action is to be taken after a deterioration in the air quality is actually recorded.
To this, the court, in its order, said: “In other words, action is proposed after air quality has deteriorated. We direct that instead of waiting for the air quality to deteriorate before initiating action under the graded response plan, necessary measures must be put into place in anticipation of a deterioration of air quality.”
It emphasised that it is necessary for the Commission (for Air Quality Management/CAQM) to engage expert agencies with domain knowledge in meteorological data and statistical modelling and it must conduct a scientific study of air quality based on available data of previous years bearing upon recorded levels of air pollution.
“The study must factor in seasonal variations and other relevant parameters. Once a scientific model is available, which factors in wind velocity as well as natural and man-made phenomena, the graded response plan can be modulated to provide for measures being taken in advance, based on anticipated changes in air quality without waiting for the air quality to deteriorate,” said the bench.
It further added that steps can be planned at least a week in advance and even earlier, based on anticipated levels of air pollution in the foreseeable future.
“The Commission shall carry out the above exercise within a month and report the steps taken for compliance with this direction,” said the bench, scheduling the matter for further hearing on November 29.
The top court order came on a plea by minor Aditya Dubey seeking direction to ban stubble burning, which chokes Delhi every year.