Delhi pollution: do you want people to die, SC asks Centre

Taking note of the unprecedented air pollution that has made the air in the Delhi National Capital Region virtually unbreathable, the Supreme Court on Thursday asked the government and the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) whether they intend to just sit back and watch people gasp for breath and finally die in a polluted National Capital.

 ''The courts are trying to monitor, the National Green Tribunal is trying to monitor the pollution ... and there you are, just sitting there and waiting for people to die,'' Chief Justice of India T S Thakur told CPCB chairman S P Singh Parihar and the Centre, represented byRanjit Kumar.

The central government had promised to inform the court about its comprehensive plan to grade pollution and warn the public about the air toxicity levels.

However, instead of a plan, the bench found that Delhi had just three air ambience monitoring stations - at Dwarka, Dilshad Gardens and Shaadipur - with no central monitoring system to collate real-time pollution data and inform the public.

When Parihar, who was summoned to the front of the courtroom, agreed that more of these stations were required, Chief Justice Thakur shot back, saying ''so till now ... till we called you here, it had never occurred to you that Delhi is dying?''

The solicitor-general complained that though the government was willing to do what was necessary to help, the implementing agencies were not doing what they should do to curb pollution. In response, the Chief Justice called the government ''sluggish''.

The bench, also comprising Justices A K Sikri and S A Bobde, directed the Centre and the CPCB to hold a meeting on 19 November with the authorities concerned and come up with a comprehensive plan for a central mechanism to monitor pollution in actual time, fix the different grades of pollution levels, measures to counter them and the number of air ambience monitoring stations required in Delhi, among other factors.

''You must have plans. How will you have spread of stations (to monitor air quality) that will clear the picture? You need to immediately plan how many stations will be reasonable ... you must prepare a plan and tell us,'' the bench told the CPCB chief.