Contemplating solutions to curb air pollution levels in the National Capital Region of India, the Supreme Court bench, consisting of Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul, Sudhanshu Dhulia, and Ahsanuddin Amanullah, has advised the central and state governments to focus on ending stubble burning rather than implementing the odd-even rule for vehicles.
The consideration of slowing down paddy cultivation has been circulating since air pollution levels began to escalate rapidly. In attempts to address pollution, governments are pointing fingers at the smoke produced by conventional vehicles, leading to the implementation of measures such as the odd-even rule and bans on 10-year-old diesel and 15-year-old petrol vehicles.
The Delhi Government recently banned the use of BS3 petrol and BS4 diesel vehicles in Delhi to combat pollution levels. Regarding the Delhi Government’s decision to enforce the odd-even rule, the Supreme Court has advised the government to implement any rule it deems fit. However, the court emphasized that the impact of the odd-even rule is minimal and not beneficial in the long run.
In response, the justices have urged governments to encourage farmers to consider growing alternative crops instead of paddy cultivation. The Supreme Court stated that gradually stopping the burning of stubble resulting from paddy cultivation is the only long-term solution to curb air pollution. Governments should take corrective measures, such as discontinuing subsidies for those involved in crop burning and providing Minimum Support Price (MSP) for other crops, to persuade farmers to make the switch.
The Supreme Court bench highlighted that stubble burning in Punjab due to paddy cultivation is a major contributor to the increasing air pollution levels in the National Capital Region and the depletion of water levels in Punjab. Paddy cultivation significantly absorbs groundwater, and areas where it is practiced may soon turn into deserted regions, increasing the likelihood of drought.
Delhi Govt wanted to implement odd-even
While the representative of the Delhi Government advocated for the implementation of the odd-even rule during winters when vehicle emissions and fog intensify pollution, the Supreme Court argued that pollution caused by vehicles contributes only 17% to air pollution. Additionally, the odd-even rule inconveniences those with only one vehicle in their households.
The air quality in Delhi-NCR is classified into four stages based on the GRAP: Stage I – ‘Poor’ (AQI 201-300), Stage II – ‘Very Poor’ (AQI 301-400), Stage III – ‘Severe’ (AQI 401-450), and Stage IV – ‘Severe Plus’ (AQI >450). Until the air quality index falls to Stage 1 or below, non-BS6 diesel and BS3 petrol cars are unlikely to be permitted entry into Delhi.
According to the guidelines set by the National Green Tribunal, the use of diesel-powered cars older than 10 years and petrol-powered cars older than 15 years is prohibited in New Delhi. To enforce this rule, the registering authorities and RTO offices in New Delhi have the authority to issue a no-objection certificate (NOC) for the transfer of these older vehicles to other states where this ban is not currently in effect. It is important to note that this ban is still in place and being enforced.