‘What’s causing air pollution in Delhi?’ NGT asks union transport ministry

NEW DELHI: The National Green Tribunal (NGT) on Monday directed the union transport ministry to submit its views on what is contributing to air pollution in Delhi.

Reacting to the ministry’s previous affidavits which pretty much stated that transport isn’t the major contributor to poor air quality, the NGT bench headed by chairperson, justice Swatanter Kumar asked the ministry to come back on Tuesday with substantive arguments on what apart from transport could be causing such severe air pollution in the city.

Sanjay Upadhyay, lawyer who is representing the petitioner, Vardhaman Kaushik also intervened highlighting how the ministry and all other agencies have been dodging action to control sources of air pollution. “Nothing has happened since last October. There are no substantial submissions, everybody especially the transport ministry is in a mode of denial. We have to accept the norms for polluting vehicles is very lax. We have made our submissions to NGT on this.”

The union transport ministry had filed an application in NGT in April against a ban on old diesel vehicles claiming that age based phase-out is a “short-cut” that may not yield much improvement in air quality and that “the fitness testing of the vehicle will prove whether a vehicle has reached the end of its life or not…”

In subsequent affidavits, the ministry had claimed that more than ten year old diesel vehicles contribute to less than 1% of PM 2.5 (fine, respirable pollution particles) emissions in the city. Their argument was based on a study by Professor Dinesh Mohan and other IIT scientists.

The ministry had argued that only 7% of the vehicles in the capital are more than 10 years old. It had also submitted data on PM 2.5 levels in RK Puram found that on Sundays or holidays despite traffic being very low the PM 2.5 levels remained high. NGT had slammed the study as it failed to explain what was causing high air pollution levels on holidays.

The Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) has also criticized the ministry for using studies by IIT Delhi “selectively” … “to play down the problem of vehicular pollution and block the ban on old diesel vehicles.”

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