NEW DELHI: Terming the severe air pollution in Delhi-NCR as "atrocious", the Supreme Court banned all construction and demolition activities in the region, along with the burning of garbage and waste, on Monday.
The apex court, which observed that people could not be "left to die" due to the "worse-than-emergency situation", said those carrying out construction and demolition activities, despite its order, would be fined Rs one lakh.
It added that a penalty of Rs 5,000 would be imposed if anyone was found burning garbage and waste in the region.
A bench comprising justices Arun Mishra and Deepak Gupta said in case of any violation, the local administration and zonal officers would be held responsible.
It said the prevailing situation in the area was a "blatant and grave violation of the right to life of an individual" and scientific data suggested that the life span of those living in the region had reduced due to this.
The top court said the authorities could not indulge in "passing the buck" and should collectively try to tackle the situation.
It asked the Delhi government and the civic bodies to chalk out a plan to ensure removal of the waste dumped at open spaces and come up with a scheme to deal with the issue.
Regarding pollution due to dust accumulated on the roads, the bench said water be sprinkled on the stretches which were prone to dust.
It directed that a traffic plan be prepared so that there was no burden on a particular road and the problem of pollution due to traffic congestion could be tackled.
It asked the traffic authorities concerned to take immediate steps in this regard.
The bench asked the court-mandated Environment Pollution Control Authority (EPCA) to hold a meeting on Monday itself and take a decision on whether the industries, which contributed to the pollution levels of Delhi-NCR, could be shut down during this period.
It also asked the EPCA to take a call regarding banning the entry of diesel-run trucks, except those carrying essential commodities, in Delhi.
Regarding the pollution caused due to generators, the bench directed the authorities to ensure that there was no power cut in the region so that there was no need to use generators, except in the case of emergency services.
"Let the order be effective till further orders are passed," the bench said.
It asked the Centre, the Delhi government and the states of NCR -- Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Rajasthan -- to prepare a road map within three weeks so that the situation did not recur in the future.
During the hearing, the bench asked why could air-conditioners not be used at a pre-set temperature of 25 degrees Celsius or above in the region.
"In Japan, ACs cannot work below 25 degrees Celsius. Here, we use ACs at 18 or even 16 degrees celsius. We have forgotten the concept of conservation," the bench observed.
It also directed the Delhi government and the civic bodies to work in tandem to see that garbage and waste were tackled on a war-footing.
The bench questioned the Delhi government about the over 4,000 industries operating in the national capital.
The counsel appearing for the Delhi government said all such industries were allowed to operate as per the masterplan and that the polluting units were already shut down.
During the hearing, the bench was informed that on the day of Diwali (October 27), Delhi's Air Quality Index (AQI) was in the "green category", but by the night, it started going into the severe category.
EPCA Chairman Bhure Lal appeared in the court and apprised it about the sowing of crop in states like Punjab and Haryana.
He also raised the issue of the depleting groundwater level in the region and said according to reports, several areas in the country would face the problem of acute shortage of groundwater.