The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has asked the Delhi government to fix a timeline to rectify the cause of poor air quality at hotspots and inquired about the status of alternative landfill sites.
The NHRC on Friday held the third hearing of chief secretaries of Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Delhi on air pollution in Delhi NCR in light of reports submitted by them in response to its directions in the last meeting. Seeking further reports, the next date of hearing has been fixed for November 25.
“The commission asked the Delhi government to fix a timeline to find out and rectify the cause of poor air quality at the hot spots and when these will become normal. The commission also enquired about the status of alternative landfill sites for garbage disposal and cleaning thereof,” it said in a statement.
While taking note of some of the actions taken by the state governments to control air pollution by managing stubble, dust, and hospital sewage, among others, the panel emphasised that they needed a strategic plan to plug the gap between policy and implementation.
The panel said the Punjab government would need to have dedicated machines for poor farmers to harvest and dispose of stubble. These machines should be procured and provided free of cost to the poor farmers through panchayats or cooperatives to bring down incidents of stubble burning to zero.
It asked for specific details of stubble generated, how much was burnt and how much was processed effectively by specifying place-wise incidents. It also asked the government to find alternatives if crop residue decomposer machines were not effective.
The states need to purchase mechanised sweeping machines for every city in coordination with civic bodies and make special provisions in the budget, it said.
There should be a roadmap to provide civic amenities in a phased but time-bound manner, the panel added.
It also expressed concern over the deaths of persons involved in “hazardous cleaning” without protective gear. It asked the governments to purchase mechanical cleaning devices such as ‘bandicoots’ and safety equipment for those involved in such “hazardous cleaning” in septic tanks.
The human rights body said it was high time that public functionaries took note of the hazard, failing which it would be constrained to recommend criminal proceedings against them, according to the statement.
The panel said officials could not absolve themselves of their statutory responsibilities by diverting the cleaning of septic tanks and sewage to a contractor. It also said the government should identify the spots where there was a danger of poisonous gas and install danger signals.
It has also asked for a specific report from the Uttar Pradesh government on the number of hospitals served notices for not complying with the guidelines for disposal of medical waste and the date-wise details of action taken for revocation of the licences of those facilities found flouting the norms.
The panel is also issuing notices to the Delhi government’s Transport and Police departments, Delhi Jal Board, Commission for Air Quality Management, Delhi Cantonment Board, Central Public Works Department, NBCC India, National Highways Authority of India, Delhi Metro Rail Corporation, Central Pollution Control Board, Delhi Development Authority and Delhi Pollution Control Board to submit their responses before November 25 in connection with the steps being taken or proposed to improve air quality in Delhi-NCR to ensure safe health and ambient atmosphere for citizens, it said.
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