The Delhi government on Monday told the Supreme Court that it was ready to take steps like a complete lockdown to fight air pollution though it will have a limited effect, as the court asked for an emergency plan to tackle the capital's air quality crisis.
Delhi's air pollution was a "crisis", the judges said, sharply pulling up the city government for "lame excuses" and "passing the buck", and insisting on immediate steps as the Supreme Court resumed its hearing on Monday.
A lockdown will have only a limited impact, the Arvind Kejriwal government said in its affidavit, adding that similar restrictions will be needed for the neighbouring areas of Delhi too, which come under the National Capital Region (NCR).
"The Delhi government is ready to take steps like complete lockdown to control local emissions. However, such a step would be meaningful if it is implemented across the NCR areas in neighbouring states. Given Delhi's compact size, a lockdown would have limited impact on the air quality regime," says the affidavit.
"We are ready to consider this step if the same is mandated for the entire NCR areas by the Government of India or by the Commission for Air Quality Management in National Capital Region and Adjoining Areas," said the Delhi government.
Listing the steps taken so far, Delhi said no physical classes would be held in schools this week and government officials would work from home. Private offices have also been advised to Work From Home. Construction sites will be shut for three days.
Hearing the case on Saturday, Chief Justice NV Ramana had asked the central government to come up with an emergency plan to tackle the dangerous smog, calling the situation "very serious".
Asking the centre and states to submit their response by Monday, the Chief Justice said: "You tell us how do you plan to take the emergency measures? Two-day lockdown? What is your plan on lowering the AQI (Air Quality Index) levels?".
Air quality in Delhi, often ranked the world's most polluted capital, has declined due to crop stubble burning, emissions from transport, coal-fired plants outside the city and other industries, as well as open garbage burning and dust.
Although it was in the ''very poor'' category, Delhi reported an improvement in the air quality on Sunday recording a 24-hour average air quality index (AQI) of 330 against 437 the previous day as emissions from farm fires in Haryana and Punjab dropped significantly. The AQI was 471 on Friday, the worst this season so far.
Delhi's air quality remained in the ''very poor'' category for the second consecutive day on Monday, with the AQI being recorded at 342.