Approach Air Quality Commission for relaxations in pollution curbs: SC

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The Supreme Court Friday asked all those who had approached it seeking relaxation in directions issued to rein in air pollution in the national capital to approach the Commission for Air Quality Management in National Capital Region and Adjoining Areas. A bench of Chief Justice of India N V Ramana and Justices D Y Chandrachud and Surya Kant asked the Commission to examine the applications and order relaxations wherever needed, and added that it expects the commission to take a call on the requests in one week.

The Commission, meanwhile, informed the court that pursuant to its directions, it has asked states in the National Capital Region to “immediately” close all industries which have not shifted to piped natural gas (PNG) or other cleaner fuels till December 12 subject to further review.

In an affidavit filed before the bench which is hearing a petition seeking steps to check air pollution in Delhi, the Commission said that “maximum violations arise from the industrial sector, which is a major contributing sector to air pollution particularly during the winter months” and that keeping this in mind, it had contemplated shifting of industries to cleaner fuels.

Accordingly, it asked the states of Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and the Government of the National Capital Territory of Delhi to “immediately” shift all industries in NCR, located in industrial areas/ clusters where gas infrastructure and supply are available, to gas. It also asked them to furnish industry-wise date/ timeline for switch over to PNG/cleaner fuels.

After receipt of the status report from the states, the Commission on December 7 issued a fresh direction: “All such industries located in industrial areas / clusters where PNG infrastructure and supply is available and have still not switched over to PNG/ cleaner fuels shall be closed immediately and not permitted to schedule their operations till 12.12.2021, subject to further review”.

The affidavit added that to ensure there is complete compliance of the direction, flying squads / inspection teams have been specifically directed to conduct inspections on December 9-10, 2021 with a view to ensure that no industry operating in the NCR continues to operate in defiance of the same and to ensure closure if they are functioning during their inspections.

“In so far as industrial operations not running on cleaner fuels is concerned, where PNG gas is not available, direction…issued by the Commission is to continue and they are allowed to operate only for a limited period of eight hours a day from Monday to Friday and not be allowed to function over Saturday and Sunday,” the affidavit pointed out adding “those violating, have been issued closures/ penal actions…”

With regard to vehicular pollution, it said the entry of trucks in Delhi, except those carrying essential commodities, continues to remain banned vide order dated 02.12.2021 issued by the Commission. “A total number of 7,673 trucks carrying non-essential items have been stopped at all entry points at Delhi and a total of 22,873 trucks carrying essential items have been permitted to enter Delhi,” the affidavit pointed out.

On the previous date of hearing, the Uttar Pradesh government had urged the court to allow the operation of sugar industries given that this is the harvesting season. The court had then asked the state to approach the Commission.

The affidavit said the Commission, after examining the state’s request and other technical details, “has… decided to permit running of sugar industries in the NCR (all NCR districts of Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Rajasthan), considering the crushing season / timing of the crop cycle and the technical requirements of industrial operations in processing and manufacturing sugar, only as a special case subject to strict compliance of conditions prescribed in the Consent to Operate”.

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