Demanding exemption for women drivers and two-wheelers for "this year", the Delhi government filed a review petition at the NGT, two days after it decided to halt the traffic rationing scheme after the green court flayed the exemptions.
“We have filed the review petition demanding exemptions for women drivers and two-wheelers for this year only,” Delhi government counsel Tarunvir Singh Khehar told the media here.
On Saturday, the National Green Tribunal gave the go-ahead to the odd-even scheme but disapproved the exemptions given during the previous two rounds of the odd-even scheme in January and April 2016.
The Delhi government had on Saturday said it would approach the green court again on Monday requesting the exemptions and, subject to the NGT decision, it would “consider implementing it again”.
Stating it did not have enough public transport as of now to accommodate the extra commuters — over 30 lakh during the odd-even if two-wheelers were not exempted — the Delhi government said the process of procuring new buses was going on.
According to it, about 3,500 new buses were being procured to ply in the national capital.
The Delhi government counsel said from next year, with better preparation, it would be in a position to implement the odd-even scheme without any exemption.
The odd-even scheme involves having vehicles with odd number registration numbers on the roads on odd dates and those with even registration numbers on even dates.
Earlier in the day, the NGT questioned the Delhi government for not filing a review petition and wondered if its statement on Saturday was a media gimmick.
Khehar responded that the delay in filing the review petition was due to some registry issues.
The Tribunal would hear the matter on Tuesday, NGT Chairperson Justice Swatanter Kumar said.
The road rationing scheme was to be implemented from November 13 to 17 in a bid to limit the number of vehicles on Delhi’s roads after the city’s air quality went “beyond severe” levels, causing widespread alarm.
The air quality in Delhi-NCR was back to “severe-plus” or “emergency” category towards Monday evening and the monitoring agencies forecast a further rise in toxicity over the next few hours.
The levels of PM2.5 and PM10 continued to rise even as both central and Delhi governments claimed partial relief during the afternoon.
The average Air Quality Index (AQI) in Delhi on Monday at 4 p.m was 463, with PM2.5 recorded at 460 units.
For the entire Delhi-NCR, the average was 455 units, with PM2.5 at 452 units.
The international permissible limit for PM2.5 — particles in the air with a diameter less than 2.5mm — is 25 units (microgram per cubic metre), while for India it is 60 units.
Ghaziabad was the most polluted city in the entire NCR, with PM2.5 at an astounding 848 units at 4 p.m — 33 times the safe limit.
The System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting And Research (SAFAR) initiative of the government said Delhi’s air “may see an increase in pollution levels” due to meteorological factors and that a clearer picture would emerge after Tuesday.
The Met office has forecast rains for November 15.
The Supreme Court-appointed Environment Pollution Control Authority (EPCA) said Delhi’s air had “reversed” to “severe-plus” or “emergency” category after some signs of improvement on Friday and Saturday.
“On Friday (November 10) and Saturday morning, air quality had improved as there was some wind that allowed dispersion of pollutants. But by Saturday afternoon, this situation reversed. Pollution continued to rise and concentration levels have remained in the severe-plus over Sunday,” it said.
However, an EPCA official claimed that the dispersal of pollutants had begun with the wind speed picking up again.
The “emergency” or “severe-plus” situation requires PM2.5 to remain above 300 units or PM10 above 500 units for 48 hours.
According to the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), Delhi’s air quality was above the required limits for over 50 hours by 3.00 p.m on Monday.
The “emergency” situation was last witnessed from Thursday till Saturday morning. However, the pollutant levels fell below the red line for an hour on Saturday noon.
According to the Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP) of the EPCA, the measures to be enforced in “severe-plus” or “emergency” category include odd-even vehicular restriction scheme.
“Western disturbance is looming large over Delhi and its withdrawal is expected on November 16-17. This is likely to be accompanied by the addition of moisture to Delhi’s air and fall in the temperature which may result in an increase in pollution levels,” said a forecast report prepared by Gufran Beig, Project Director of SAFAR.
But the report said that the rise could be marginal and nowhere near that caused by stubble burning and “Gulf dust storm”, which is also a contributor to pollution in some parts of the country.
Delhi Minister Gopal Rai said on Monday that there was some improvement in Delhi’s air quality in the morning.
“According to reports, there are fluctuations (in pollution levels). But in the past six hours, pollution levels are a little lower than before,” Rai said in the afternoon.
He also claimed that the air pollution in Punjab and Haryana was worse than Delhi.
Union Environment Minister Harsh Vardhan said: “There is a declining trend in the levels of particulate matters at present, indicating improvement in air quality on account of efforts made by various agencies.”
He also called for round-the-year efforts to tackle pollution.
Schools in Delhi reopened on Monday after a four-day closure forced by severe pollution levels that, however, continued unabated and many schools recorded low attendance.
Teachers suggested that schools be shut for a few more days till pollution decreased in the National Capital Region, including Delhi.
Ranju Sehrawat, a schoolteacher at Amar Shaheed Major Sehrawat School in Mahipalpur, said the attendance was around 50 per cent in her class on Monday.
“The government should keep schools closed for a few more days. No point in asking children to attend classes in this weather,” she said.
A Principal of another government school said she observed around 60 per cent attendance in a number of classes she inspected during her daily round.
“Only about half of the students were present in the classes I visited. In one class, 29 of the 40 students were present,” said Seema Anand, Principal of Ghitorni Government School that functions under the Municipal Corporation.
She also pointed to ill-effects of pollution on children and said schools should remain shut for a few more days.
A student of a senior class in a private school said older students were present in her institution, but children from pre-primary classes were present in numbers lower than usual.
On November 8, Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia announced that all schools and colleges in Delhi will remain shut till Sunday due to alarming pollution levels. (IANS)