The one-man committee to oversee steps to tackle stubble burning was suspended by the Supreme Court today as the Centre said it would create a permanent body through legislation to deal with annual air pollution problem in Delhi and its surrounding areas.
On October 16, the Supreme Court had appointed retired judge Justice Madan B Lokur to monitor stubble burning in Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh — a key source of the pollution every winter. At the time, the court had declined to accept the Centre’s request to reconsider the appointment.
Today, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, who was representing the government, told the court that the new legislation will be brought within three or four days and asked the court to suspend the Lokur Committee.
Calling it a welcome step, Chief Justice of India SA Bobde said, “This is something that government should have acted on”.
“This is not a matter for PIL (Public Interest Litigation)… The only issue is people are choking because of pollution and it is something which must be curbed,” Chief Justice Bobde added.
“This is being done to set up a permanent body not only for stubble burning, but also for pollution in Delhi and NCR region,” said top sources in the Environment Ministry. This, sources said, will replace the EPCA — Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority — led by Bhure Lal.
The pollution this year is a matter of more concern, with experts saying it could lead to a spike in coronavirus cases. A report by National Centre for Disease Control earlier this month held that Delhi may see up to 15,000 Covid cases a day in winter.
A Harvard University study has shown that an increase of only one microgram per cubic metre in PM (Particulate Matter) 2.5 is associated with an 8 per cent increase in the Covid-19 death rate.
Over the last two days, the daily spike has been more than 4,000 in Delhi.
Earlier, the Centre had objected to the formation of the Lokur Committee, saying all the states have already been heard.
Union Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar had also said stubble burning contributes only four per cent to pollution in the Delhi-NCR area. The rest, he had said, was caused by “local factors”, which drew a strong protest pollution from Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal.
“There’s no massive jump in any local source of pollution in last few days to cause the spike,” Mr Kejriwal had said.