Every year around 3000 people die in Delhi due to air pollution-related diseases. (File Photo)
Every day eight people on an average are dying in Delhi due to air pollution-related diseases, the Supreme Court today said, quoting a study, even as it directed the Centre to consider banning the use of fuels high in sulphur content - furnace oil and pet coke - by industries in NCR.
A bench of Justices M B Lokur and P C Pant quoted a study of a Boston-based institute which said that every year around 3000 people die in Delhi due to air pollution-related diseases.
"A 2010 study of the Boston-based institute on health effects estimates that at least 3000 pre-mature deaths take place annually in Delhi due to air pollution-related diseases.
"The World Allergy Organisation's journal published a report in 2013 on the high respiratory disorder symptoms which says that students living in Chandni Chowk in north delhi have 66 per cent such symptoms, west Delhi's Mayapuri (59 per cent) and south Delhi's Sarojini Nagar (46 per cent).
"Heavy traffic movement has been found to be the factor responsible for the relative difference between the localities," the bench said while quoting the report in the order.
Refusing to grant eight weeks' time to the Centre to talk to all stake holders using sulphur-heavy fuels, the bench said that eight weeks' time is too long and granted four weeks.
"One has to think are we doing the right thing. Eight people (on an average) are dying in Delhi due to air pollution," the bench told Solicitor General (SG) Ranjit Kumar.
The SG said that the Centre favours a ban on sulphur-heavy fuels used by industries in the National Capital Region (NCR) but "are we doing the right thing if we do not give enough time to the industry to switch over to alternative fuel".
The Centre told the court that there is hardly any alternative fuel which can be used by the industries which was refuted by the Environment Pollution Control Authority (EPCA), a statutory body.
"There is alternative fuel and industries can use natural gas or electricity. Although electricity can be a problem in the NCR region but natural gas can be a feasible option," the counsel for EPCA said.
The bench also granted its nod to the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) to withdraw Rs 2.50 crore from Environment Compensation Charge (ECC) fund created on the direction of the top court.
The top court further directed CPCB that Rs 2.5 crore should be used for purchasing equipment for real time air quality monitoring stations being set up in Delhi and NCR. It also modified its earlier direction and said that EPCA should inspect Pollution Under Control (PUC) Centres in the NCR region and submit its reports.
Citing the report, the bench said, "Action to combat air pollution from all sources, particularly toxic emissions from combustive sources like vehicles, power plants and factories is critical."
It asked CPCB, EPCA and the governments of Delhi, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan to hold a meeting within two weeks and come out with a comprehensive plan to check pollution in the national capital.
"You should go through all the plans submitted by different bodies within two weeks and file a comprehensive plan with regard to checking pollution in Delhi," the bench said.
The top court had on January 17 warned that the problem of air pollution was very serious and solutions need to be found urgently, rather than in years.
The Solictor General had also informed the court that the government has notified the Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP) on January 12 in compliance with the court's earlier order.
The top court had on December 2 last year accorded its nod to GRAP to tackle different levels of pollution. It had also asked CPCB to upgrade its existing infrastructure and set up additional monitoring stations in Delhi-NCR within six months.