The central government told the Supreme Court on Monday that work had started on the installation of a smog tower at Anand Vihar in east Delhi according to its directions.
Solicitor general Tushar Mehta, representing the Centre, informed a three-judge bench headed by justice Arun Mishra that survey of the site for constructing the tower was complete and that the installation was being done in collaboration with IIT Bombay.
“Collection of soil samples is in progress and we are in the process of appointing an architect to make site drawing, etc. IIT Bombay and TATA projects have tied up with University of Minnesota as it is a patent-protected innovation. University of Minnesota has agreed to share the technology,” Mehta submitted.
The development came after the Supreme Court had, on July 29, threatened contempt of court action against IIT Bombay after it expressed unwillingness to take responsibility for the project and proposed to back out.
The proposal to construct a smog tower in collaboration with IIT Bombay was put forward by the Centre in December 2019 after the Supreme Court raised serious concerns about the rising pollutions levels in Delhi.
The court in January 13 had given the green signal for the proposal and asked the Centre and Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) to install a smog tower at Anand Vihar in east Delhi in three months. The project got delayed after IIT refused to take overall responsibility, including verification of works carried out by Tata Projects Limited (proposed to be involved by IIT for construction, operation and maintenance of the smog tower).
The CPCB initiated various rounds of talks with IIT Mumbai regarding the project and three versions of MoU were exchanged between them. But the talks bore no fruition. When the court was informed on July 29 about IIT backing out, a livid justice Mishra had threatened to initiate contempt action against the institute.
“How can they back out from a central government project after this court passed orders? Is it a child’s game? We will not tolerate this nonsense. We will draw contempt against them,” he said.
The Centre then informed the court on August 4 that the smog tower will be built under IIT’s supervision.
The court on Monday also refused to entertain a plea to reconsider the proposal and recall its orders directing installation of the smog tower. The plea filed by an intervener in the case, KK Mishra, said smog towers were not effective and there was no scientific basis to validate the claim that they would reduce air pollution.
“We are not recalling our order. The plea is without merit,” the court said.
Besides the smog tower, the issue of stubble burning in the north Indian states of Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh, a major contributor to air pollution from October to November, also came up Monday’s hearing .
The court asked the three states to file reports regarding the steps taken by their panchayat departments to educate public and spread awareness about the ill-effects of stubble burning.
It asked Delhi government to look into pollution hot spots identified by IIT Delhi and file a status report regarding steps taken to deal with these places.