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As North India chokes with smog, NGT pulls up Delhi govt over air quality

The green panel also directed the Central Pollution Control Board to state what emergency directions it has issued

A view of the dense smog in New Delhi. (Photo: PTI)
A view of the dense smog in New Delhi. (Photo: PTI)

The Delhi High Court and the National Green Tribunal on Tuesday rapped the Delhi government and neighbouring states for their unpreparedness to deal with the stubble burning, dubbed as the "main villain" of the menace, as the city reeled under severe smog conditions.

What preventive steps have been taken to address the issue was the question looming large before the High Court and the tribunal as Delhi-NCR woke up this morning to 'severe' air quality under a blanket of thick haze, with pollution levels breaching the permissible standards by multiple times.

While the High Court termed stubble burning as the "main villain" behind the "severe" level of air pollution in the city, the NGT lambasted the governments of Delhi, Haryana and Punjab for not being prepared in advance to tackle the emergency situation.

"The ambient air quality is so bad that children are not able to breath properly. Why didn't you not spray water using helicopters as per our direction? You take instructions and inform us day after tomorrow," a NGT bench headed by its Chairperson Justice Swatanter Kumar said.

The NGT asked the state governments to explain why they had not taken preventive and precautionary measures as it was reported earlier that such a situation was likely to arise.

The green panel also directed the Central Pollution Control Board to state what emergency directions it has issued in exercise of its powers to tackle the situation.

The High Court said that while bringing stubble burning to a complete halt "will take time", the governments should at least try to enforce the regulations like mitigating construction dust generation, which can be done easily.

In a related development, authorities here announced a series of preventive measures including a four-fold hike in parking fees and slashing of metro fares after the Supreme Court-mandated Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority, empowered to enforce the Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP), asked the states in the region to come out with steps to address the "crisis situation".