Among other changes included in the plan are more air pollution monitors for Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Haryana; fast-track construction of Western and Eastern Peripheral Expressways; enhanced bus service; additional land for parking; and 486 more coaches for the Delhi Metro. The court has asked the environment ministry to notify this action plan for all sources of air pollution in Delhi-NCR within two weeks.
The court, however, made a slight U-turn regarding the use of pet coke in Rajasthan, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh which causes pollution almost 1,500 times more than petrol.
The top court allowed the cement industry to use pet coke as a feedstock after it was banned last month to clean up the air in Delhi and its neighbouring states. It also relaxed the ban on the use of furnace oil at power plants till December 31, 2018, saying its usage stands at just 0.03 per cent.
However, in a major setback, the government has asked for five more years to cut emissions from India's thermal power plants. The government has already missed its own deadline of December 31.
Harish Salve, who was appointed by the court (amicus curiae), said the delay is unacceptable adding that these plants are responsible for over 60 per cent of the particulate matter emissions and 50 per cent of sulphur dioxide emissions.
Sunita Narain, member of the Environment Pollution Control Authority (EPCA) which drew the plan, said "whoever wants this delay does not breathe air". She added, "It is unfortunate that the power ministry has requested to delay the implementation of new emissions standards for thermal power plants by seven years. These standards were notified in 2015 and were scheduled for implementation in December 2017. This is unacceptable."
The top court has also deferred any decision related to cess on diesel and BS-VI fuel compliant vehicles. Sandeep Narain, who is representing Society for Indian Automobiles Manufactures or SIAM, said, "We are not making a toy, the timeline has been shifted so many times. First it was 2025, now 2020. We need more time."
Environment Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan refused to comment on the developments in the Supreme Court today saying he needs to read the order first. He had yesterday invited the Chief Ministers of Delhi, Rajasthan, Haryana and Punjab to hold talks on pollution, but only Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal attended the meet.
I was assured by Shri @ArvindKejriwal that they're committed to taking all steps for controlling air pollution in Delhi. and that the Govt of Delhi would work closely with all agencies in tackling this issue pic.twitter.com/GrLyW5msGm- Dr Harsh Vardhan (@drharshvardhan) December 12, 2017
Dr Harsh Vardhan added that "air quality in 2017 was better than that in 2016". "The number of good, moderate and satisfactory days in 2017 were 151 whereas the same were 109 days in 2016. Similarly, the number of very poor, poor and severe days in 2017 are 181 as compared to 214 days in 2016," he tweeted.