NEW DELHI: In an unprecedented direction, a Supreme Court bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra, on Monday sought presence of senior technical experts to suggest ways to immediately tackle the menace of deteriorating air quality in Delhi-NCR region.
The apex court told lawyers representing various authorities that it is not satisfied with the legal argument on various methods to curb the rising air pollution. It said experts, especially from Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) and Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF), should be present to assist it on the issue and suggest immediate remedy.
Additional Solicitor General A Nadkarni, appearing for the Centre, informed the court that fires caused by stubble burning have been extinguished, and that the next step is to begin patrolling to ensure no more fires take place.
The court said it is looking for concrete reforms and asked the authorities concerned to mobilize the presence of experts within 30 minutes. This direction left the authorities scrambling to get the appropriate expert before the court.
Professor Mukesh Khare, IIT Delhi, who appeared before the court, said: "We need to immediately curb four major factors associated with air pollution: stubble burning, spraying water to suppress dust, stop burning of waste (waste management), and addressing dust from unpaved roads".
The court inquired from Khare if he has come across any immediate strategy to control air pollution, especially from other parts of the world. Khare replied the Chinese usually spray water to suppress dust by adjusting pressure on the nozzle, which does not allow lifting up in the air.
Nadkarni recommended chemicals sprays to suppress dust. The apex court passed order on concerns raised by Khare, and asked him if it is suffice for the moment. Khare expressed his satisfaction on the directions of the top court. Khare disapproved of cloud seeding technology as Delhi-NCR is a large region.
The joint secretary MoEF, while replying on methods to extinguish stubble burning, suggested that cooperation from Gram Pradhans can address the issue. "Informers will be given awards if they report instances of fire," said the officer.
Justice Mishra expressing dissatisfaction said: "This cannot be left to informers...how do you make people liable? How do you visualize cloud seeding will help?" The officer replied, "The meteorological department is the department concerned."
The officer said satellite imagery establishes that stubble burning fires are not improving in Punjab. He also suggested action against dust should be prioritized. Environment Pollution (Prevention & Control) Authority (EPCA) chairman Bhure Lal, also present during the hearing, insisted chief secretaries of respective states should be held accountable.
"Crop residue can be utilized for electricity", he told the court.
Sunita Narain, one of the members of EPCA, informed the court Haryana has succeeded in controlling stubble burning this year.