The Supreme Court re-imposed an interim ban on construction activities in Delhi-NCR on Wednesday, citing deteriorating air quality as a reason. The court also advised the government to “do advance planning, based on anticipated levels of air pollution in the foreseeable future,” rather than waiting for air quality to worsen.
“In the meanwhile, as an interim measure and until further instructions, we re-impose the ban on construction activities in the NCR,” stated a bench led by Chief Justice N.V. Ramana and including Justices D.Y. Chandrachud and Surya Kant.
Non-polluting construction activities such as plumbing, interior decoration, electrical work, and carpentry, on the other hand, are allowed to continue, and states are required to use the funds collected as a labour cess for the welfare of construction workers to provide subsistence for the period during which construction activities are prohibited and pay wages notified under the Minimum Wages Act for the respective categories of workers, according to the law.
According to Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, a graded response plan has been established, in which measures are identified to be taken progressively in response to deteriorating levels of ambient air pollution. The bench was advised that the graded response strategy in place anticipates taking action only once a significant deterioration in air quality is observed.
“In other words, action is offered after air quality has deteriorated,” the court wrote in its judgement. Rather than waiting for air quality to worsen before taking action under the graded response plan, we direct that appropriate steps be taken in advance of air quality deterioration.”
It emphasised that the Commission (for Air Quality Management/CAQM) must engage professional agencies with domain knowledge in meteorological data and statistical modelling, as well as perform a scientific analysis of air quality based on previous year’s data and recorded levels of pollution.
“Seasonal variations and other important aspects must be taken into account in the research.” The graded response plan can be modulated to provide for measures to be taken in advance, based on anticipated changes in air quality, rather than waiting for the air quality to deteriorate, once a scientific model that factors in wind velocity as well as natural and man-made phenomena is available, according to the bench.
It went on to say that actions can be prepared at least a week ahead of time, if not even earlier, based on expected levels of air pollution in the near future.
“Within a month, the Commission shall carry out the aforementioned exercise and report on the efforts taken to comply with this instruction,” the bench stated, setting a hearing date for November 29.
The top court decision came in response to a petition filed by Aditya Dubey, a juvenile, who asked for a ban on stubble burning, which clogs Delhi every year.
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