By Juthy Saha
The Indian supreme court has declared that state governments will have to pay their citizens compensation if they fail to provide clean air and water.
The supreme court bench, made up of justices Arun Mishra and Deepak Gupta, gave the government six weeks to prove why they should not be held accountable “for their failure in discharging their duties”.
The governments of Punjab, Haryana, Delhi and Uttar Pradesh were highlighted as those that should be responsible for compensating the millions living in Delhi’s toxic smog.
“We have become a laughing stock,” said Mishra. “The government cannot provide clean air and water to the citizens in its capital city. What is the point of all this development? What is the point of being a world power?”
This month Delhi has endured one of the worst periods of pollution on record, with a thick brown smog limiting visibility and causing burning eyes. The supreme court said simply the “right to life of humans is being endangered” by the pollution crisis and demanded action.
The supreme court has recently made rulings to try to get state governments to act, including issuing an order to stop all crop stubble burning, which in states such as Punjab and Haryana remains rampant and is a huge contributor to Delhi’s pollution.
Mishra, directly addressing the solicitor general, Tushar Mehta, said: “Should this be tolerated? Is this not worse than internal war? Why are people in this gas chamber?”
This week, Delhi authorities began using anti-smog guns, which spray water into the air to try to reduce pollutants, and a proposal on how to introduce hydrogen-based technology, as an alternative to polluting fuels, is also being explored.
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