The Supreme Court on Monday declined to entertain a plea to reconsider its decision for setting up of a ‘smog tower’ in Delhi, as a pilot project to combat the menace of air pollution, while the Centre informed it that work on this venture has already begun.
A bench, headed by Justice Arun Mishra, also asked the Delhi Chief Secretary to file an affidavit on the present status of 13 pollution hotspots in the national capital and also apprise it on the measures taken to control the pollution levels.
Counsel appearing for the petitioner, who filed an intervention application in the matter, contended before the bench that the smog towers will not only lead to money-making by Chinese companies but also have no scientific basis.
Justice Mishra, however, said the arguments have no merit and the court is not willing to entertain this plea and recall its order on the construction of smog towers.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, representing the Centre, informed the bench that the University of Minnesota is the licensee sharing the scope of deliverables and transfer of technology and submitted that a joint affidavit has been filed by the Centre and the Central Pollution Control Board.
The IIT-Bombay and TATA Projects have tied up with University of Minnesota as it is a patent-protected innovation, he added.
Mehta also said that site survey work was completed on Friday, the collection of soil samples is underway and geo-technical investigation is going on for the circle design, adding that this is being done as it is essential for structural stability. “We are in the process of appointing an architect to make site drawing etc,” he said.
The bench, also comprising Justices B.R. Gavai and Krishna Murari, perused the August 9 affidavit filed by the Ministry of Environment and Forests in the case, and scheduled the matter for further hearing on Tuesday.
Also taking up the issue of air pollution from stubble-burning in states of Uttar Pradesh, Punjab and Haryana, the bench asked Punjab’s Chief Secretary to apprise it on the measures taken so far in providing machines and equipment to small and marginal farmers, as an alternative to stubble-burning.
The Chief Secretary replied that subsidy is being provided to the farmers, but the state lacks funds due to the Covid-19 crisis.
The bench also asked the stakeholders to give a detailed report on the issue of stubble-burning and asked whether panchayats have been involved to create awareness on the issue. The bench also asked the Punjab government on the action taken against polluting industries.
As the bench asked Delhi Chief Secretary on the steps taken to deal with pollution, he said that measures have been taken to reduce traffic congestion and deal with open waste.
On August 4, the apex court had asked the Centre to “start at the earliest” the work for installation of smog tower in the national capital. The Centre informed the top court that the process will take 10 months.