The country's top green court on Friday questioned the efficacy of the Delhi government's proposed odd-even vehicle rationing scheme that was to be rolled out from Monday as the capital and its suburbs remained shrouded in a dense haze, with air pollution levels continuing to be "severe".
A bench headed by National Green Tribunal (NGT) Chairperson Justice Swatanter Kumar sought details about how the earlier implementation of the odd-even scheme had helped in reducing the ambient air pollution in Delhi.
The directive comes a day after the government announced it would bring back the plan from November 13 to 17 to combat severe air pollution in Delhi and the NCR region.
The NGT said while the green court was not against the scheme, it wanted to know how it helps.
"We will not allow odd-even vehicle rationalisation scheme until you prove that it's not counter-productive.
"Reports from DPCC (Delhi Pollution Control Committee) and CPCB (Central Pollution Control Board) showed there was no change in pollution level last time. It's clear that small cars are not major polluters. It's the diesel and overloaded vehicles," Kumar said.
As the Delhi government also announced it would run 500 extra buses and allow free travel in all DTC and cluster coaches to discourage people from driving private vehicles during the odd-even scheme, the NGT asked it to clarify how many of the proposed extra buses would run on diesel -- more polluting than petrol.
Kumar observed that even Delhi Metro failed to help during the last edition of odd-even as during peak hours "it was difficult to even breathe inside the metro".
He also asked the government to clarify the logic behind exempting two-wheelers from the scheme.
The final decision to roll out the scheme is expected on Saturday.
The court also rapped the governments of Delhi and neighbouring states, saying they had given "Delhi the title of the worst capital in the world" by failing to implement moves that would curb rising pollution.
It pointed out that despite its orders, construction activities have not been stopped in the National Capital Region and water not being sprinkled in Delhi to reduce dust in the air.
It also pulled up the Haryana, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan governments for not stopping unabated stubble burning -- one of the major causes of bad air quality in the capital.
"It has been brought to our notice that huge crop residue burning is going on in Karnal, Haryana... We direct all the pollution control boards and departments concerned of Haryana, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan to ensure that there is no stubble burning any more."
Pointing out that there was a lack of will, he said the tribunal would impose fines and recover money from the salaries of concerned officers who it said had failed to take appropriate action.
As the court lashed out at the states for "the biggest sin committed by this generation" as "children are unable to breath", the Delhi-NCR region continued to breathe toxic air on Friday -- with major air pollutants remaining at "severe" level.
Data collected from the CPCB showed that the levels of PM2.5 and PM10 (particles with diameter less than 2.5 and 10mm) were "severe".
The average Air Quality Index (AQI) of Delhi was at over 450, while the average PM2.5 and PM10 was over 375 and 590 units respectively at 7 p.m., according to government-run System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting And Research (SAFAR).
The safe limit for PM2.5 is 60 micrograms per cubic meter according to national standards and 25 micrograms per cubic meter as per international standards.
People have been advised to avoid all physical activity outdoors and to consult a doctor in case of unusual coughing, chest discomfort, wheezing, breathing difficulty or fatigue.
The situation is expected to moderate from Saturday with SAFAR predicting average PM2.5 and PM10 levels to stay at 303 and 470. This will further improve on Sunday.
(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)