Air pollution causes 3,000 premature deaths in Delhi every year. That means eight deaths a day. Also, one in every third child in Delhi has reduced lung function and high propensity for increased pulmonary haemorrhage.
These are the fatal effects of air pollution as read out by the Supreme Court to the Centre on Monday in an open court to prove that poor air quality is indeed a killer on the loose.
A Bench led by Justice Madan B. Lokur was responding to a submission by Solicitor-General Ranjit Kumar, seeking eight weeks’ time to find a more environmentally-safe substitute to pet-coke and furnace oil lighting up industries in the National Capital Region.
The court had ordered him to do so in the previous hearing.
But instead of coming up with the name of an alternative fuel, Mr. Kumar simply sought more time, submitting that finding a substitute fuel was tough. The Solicitor-General even tried to convey to the Bench that dust causes more pollution than bad fuel.
“Studies show that dust causes 38% of the pollution,” Mr. Kumar submitted.
He pointed to how the Arvind Kejriwal-led Delhi government had promised vacuum cleaners by April 2016. “And today we are in February,” Mr. Kumar submitted.
“It is not that we are siding with the industries, but we need more time to find a substitute for pet-coke and furnace oil,” Mr. Kumar said.
But the court was in no mood to listen to the argument. “But if people are dying everyday... are we doing the right thing, Mr. Solicitor?” Justice Lokur asked.
When Mr. Kumar faintly objected that people may not be dying on a daily basis due to pollution, Justice Lokur brought out a study conducted by the Environment Pollution Control Authority (EPCA) in 2008 filed by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) to show how the National Capital witnesses 3,000 premature deaths a year.
“3,000 deaths in 365 days. That means eight deaths a day. That answers your doubts,” the Bench told Mr. Kumar.
Lawyers for the EPCA pointed out that natural gas and even electricity could be used as substitutes for pet-coke and furnace oil. They said that the high content of sulphur in these varieties of polluting fuel make it one of the major sources of pollution and death.
The court asked the Centre to implement the ban on furnace oil and pet-coke, used by industries in the NCR, in four weeks.
The Supreme Court further asked the CPCB, the Delhi government, the EPCA, Haryana, UP and Rajasthan to hold a meeting within two weeks and come out with a comprehensive plan to check pollution in the National Capital.
The court also approved the withdrawal of ₹2.50 crore by the CPCB from Environment Compensation Charge (ECC) fund collected from polluting vehicles. The court directed the CPCB to use the money to purchase equipment for real-time air quality monitoring stations being set up in Delhi and the NCR.
It also directed the EPCA to inspect the Pollution Under Check (PUC) centres in the NCR.