The capital, which regularly tops lists of the world’s most polluted cities, typically experiences heavy smog during the winter months, as farmers in surrounding states burn stubble to prepare their land for the next crop. The period from mid-October to mid-November also coincides with Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights, when residents set-off firecrackers as part of the celebrations.
Following a hearing Monday, the Supreme Court of India released an order which found that the state government, the government of Delhi and civic bodies had “miserably failed” to perform their duty to the public.
“This is a shocking state of affairs in which we are put, as on today,” the court said. “This is a blatant and grave violation of right to life of the sizeable population by all these actions and the scientific data which has been pointed out indicates that life span of the people is being reduced by this kind of pollution which is being created.”
The court said it was at a “loss to understand” why authorities were not able to create a situation in which this kind of annual event did not take place. “People cannot be left to die or to suffer various ailments,” said the court.
The court ordered Delhi’s pollution board to immediately halt “polluting industries” in the city and for the state government to submit “a road map for preventing this kind of situation in future” within three weeks.
Delhi’s government has take some steps to curb the pollution, including instituting the odd-even car rule this month for the first time since 2016. The rule means that more than 4 million cars are banned from the roads each day — and anyone who breaks it faces a fine of 4,000 rupees ($56).
Last week, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said the city had been “turned into a gas chamber due to smoke from crop burning.” Kejriwal singled out the governments of Punjab and Haryana states, which he said contributed to Delhi’s pollution as farmers in those areas ignored bans on burning leftover crops in their fields.