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Environmental Emergency

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Environmental Emergency refers to a situation when the quantity of Particulate Matter of size less than 10 micrometers or less in diameter or (PM10) and Particulate Matter of size less than 2.5 micrometers or less in diameter (PM2.5) per Cubic Meter of air (µg/m3), exceeds the values of 500 µg/M3 or 300 µg/M3 respectively.

The word Environmental Emergency was coined by National Green Tribunal vide its order of its principal bench (chairperson) dated 10 November 2016 in the matter of Vardhaman Kaushik Vs. Union of India & Ors.; Sanjay Kulshrestha Vs. Union of India & Ors.; Supreme Court Women Lawyers Association Vs. Union of India & Ors.; Omesh Saigal Vs. Govt. Of NCT of Delhi & Ors.; and Diya Kapur & Ors. Vs. Union of India & Ors.

The immediate context of defining this word was the severe air pollution witnessed in many states particularly in the National Capital Territory (NCT) of Delhi, in the first week of November 2016 when PM10 levels touched over 990 µg/M3.

NGT noticed on the advice of experts that where P.M10 exceeds the value of 431µg/M3 and when PM 2.5 reaches 251 µg/M3, then it is a situation of ‘severe pollution’. If those values reached 500 µg/M3 or 300 µg/M3 respectively then it is a case of ‘environmental emergency’. The prescribed safe limit of PM10 and PM2.5 is 100 µg/m3 and 60 µg/m3 respectively. (For more details on the levels of pollution see the write up on National Air Quality Index)

NGT suggested constituting a centralized monitoring Committee and State Monitoring Committee for ensuring proper implementation of its judgments.

NGT directed that in a situation of environmental emergency, the concerned State and the State Committees shall constitute a special task force to ensure that there is no burning of waste of any kind, roads are mechanically cleaned and there is no undue traffic congestion in the city particularly during the period of environmental emergency. The committee shall prepare a complete action plan for environmental emergency as well as prevention and control of air pollution, wherever parameters are found to be in excess of prescribed standards. The action plan so prepared shall be submitted to the Central Committee which will approve the same and fix the period for its implementation in regular course of business of the concerned authority, Corporations, etc.

Further the concerned states shall ensure that

The National Green Tribunal has been established on 18.10.2010 under the National Green Tribunal Act 2010 for effective and expeditious disposal of cases relating to environmental protection and conservation of forests and other natural resources including enforcement of any legal right relating to environment and giving relief and compensation for damages to persons and property and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto. It is a specialized body equipped with the necessary expertise to handle environmental disputes involving multi-disciplinary issues.

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