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NEW DELHI: The National Green Tribunal (NGT) rapped the Delhi government on Friday for going ahead with odd-even traffic restrictions at a time the air quality appeared to be improving, and said it could ‘stay’ the scheme during a special hearing on Saturday if the government failed to prove that the restrictions were effective.
Questioned the rationale behind the Delhi government’s move, the NGT pointed to data from the central and Delhi pollution control boards which showed that both PM 10 and PM 2.5 levels were higher after odd-even was implemented in the city last year.
The city government had on Thursday announced that the odd-even formula will be implemented in Delhi from November 13 to 17. The tribunal, however, asked it to give an undertaking that it will impose the scheme only if PM 2.5 levels remained above 300 micrograms per cubic metre.
“The odd-even formula cannot be imposed like this. Nothing has been done from your end for the past one year,” the tribunal bench headed by chairperson Justice Swatanter Kumar said on Friday.
“When the situation is improving, the government is trying to implement it. You should have done this earlier if you wanted to. This will now cause inconvenience to people,” Justice Kumar said.
The bench termed the plan as a ‘farce’ and questioned why the scheme was being imposed for just five days. It also questioned the Delhi government counsel as to why two-wheelers had been exempted.
“Also, what is the justification for exempting two-wheelers from odd-even? These are a serious contributor to Delhi’s emissions, accounting for 46 per cent of the total air pollution,” the bench said.
The counsel appearing for Delhi government informed the NGT that they had introduced the scheme in pursuance of directions from EPCA, the Supreme Court appointed anti-pollution watchdog, and the graded response action plan. However, the tribunal asked why several other suggestions had not been implemented.
“The Supreme Court has never said that you implement the odd-even scheme. It was only one of the directions given by EPCA. You have not followed 99 directions and introduced the odd-even scheme and treating it as a picnic,” the bench said.
The tribunal relaxed its earlier directions and allowed industries making or supply essential goods to operate, however it asked authorities to impose a fine of Rs 1 lakh on construction and industrial units still operating in the capital. NGT has asked the Delhi government to be ready with all the answers during the special hearing to be held at 11am on Saturday, in which decisions over odd-even will be taken.