Concerned over the threat posed to limited natural resources due to their overuse, the National Green Tribunal has directed for assessment of carrying capacity of 102 cities, including Delhi, where air quality does not meet the National Ambient Air Quality Standards.
The concept of "carrying capacity" addresses the question as to how many people can be permitted into any area without the risk of degrading the environment there.
The tribunal said the Ministry of Urban Development in coordination with the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), Ministry of Transport, authorities such as Planning Commission and states may carry out such study with the assistance of experts in the field.
"We consider it necessary to direct assessment of carrying capacity for the NCT Delhi as well as other major cities, particularly 102 'non-attainment cities', within reasonable time, preferably in one year. Such study can be in phases depending on priority areas having pollution hot spots.
"Such assessment must specifically study capacity in terms of number of vehicles, extent of population, extent of different nature of activities institutional, industrial, commercial etc," a bench comprising NGT Chairperson Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel said.
The methodology to do so may be worked out within two months, it said.
"As a result of such study, further policy decisions may be taken by concerned authorities for comprehensive action for checking air pollution in the interest of public health. This may also result in regulation of logistics and infrastructure. The CPCB may act as nodal agency.
The NGT said Delhi is over-polluted and figures quite high in the ranking of most polluted cities and there is no study about the capacity of the city with respect to the extent of population which can be accommodated and number of vehicles which can be handled by its roads.
"The Master Plan for Delhi 2021 also does not assess the urban/physical carrying capacity of the NCT of Delhi despite noting a reduction in the carrying capacity of amenities such as drainage.
"However, no specific emphasis is laid on determination of carrying capacity of the city on the basis of factors such as availability of land, air and water resources for the increasing population in the light of principles of sustainable development and intergeneration equity," it said.
The NGT will take up the matter for further consideration of the report in the third week of February, 2019.