As the winter breaks in, the capital city of Delhi is struggling with toxic pollution and severe air quality. Post the festival of Diwali, citizens woke up to grey, foggy skies as air quality dipped to hazardous levels. The air in the capital turns even more toxic in winters when farmers in neighbouring states turn to burn crop stubble.
A BBC report on the matter revealed the AQI (air quality index) figures and stated that the concentration of PM2.5 (dangerous tiny pollutants in the air) stood at 999 per cubic metre in some parts of Delhi on Friday, Nov 12. One of the highest readings obtained; several other places recorded figures close to or higher than 500, categorised as "severe".
On November 13, Saturday morning, a Supreme Court special bench headed by Chief Justice of India N.V. Ramana and comprising Justices Chandrachud and Surya Kant, heard a plea by 17-year-old Delhi student Aditya Dubey concerning rising levels of air pollution.
The hearing commenced at 10.30 am, according to updates rolled out by legal media outlet Bar and Bench on Twitter. CJI Ramana in one of his opening remarks observed, "The situation is very bad. We have to wear masks even at home."
Favouring the farmers, the bench pointed out that Delhi's air pollution cannot be blamed fully on the crop stubble burning season and questioned the state government on what other technical measures are being taken to ensure stubble is removed. The bench also questioned the other factors contributing to Delhi's severe air quality.
Acknowledging that causes include vehicle and industrial pollution too, CJI Ramana asked the state and Delhi government for suggestions on how the "AQI can be reduced immediately by 200 points"? He did so while recommending an extreme measure such as a two-day lockdown for the same.
"AQI was 84 on Sept 30 and now it has become 474 and PM 10 has increased by 500 points and PM 7 has increased by 390 Points... probably its the stubble burning and solution lies in a cost effective mechanism. PUSA research scientist can look into this," advocate Rahul Mehra representing the Delhi government pointed out during the hearing reinstating, "We realise that this situation of pollution in Delhi is like smoking 20 cigarettes a day."
According to the conversation rolled out by the legal media outlet Bar and Bench on its Twitter page, Delhi's newly installed smog towers were also considered while questioning their efficacy. Since schools have opened up across the city, the bench observed that little kids are forced to be exposed to such extreme, toxic air which could affect their lungs at some point.