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Reuters/Saumya Khandelwal
Breathless.
VIRTUAL BATTLE

Delhi will now use Twitter and Facebook to fight air pollution

Kuwar Singh
By Kuwar Singh

Reporter

Delhi is set to open a new front in its battle against deadly air pollution: social media.

The supreme court of India has directed authorities in India’s Delhi National Capital Region (NCR) to allow people to lodge complaints and grievances on social media.

“CPCB (Central Pollution Control Board) will immediately create a social media account on which the citizens may lodge their complaint directly to be acted upon,” supreme court Justices Madan B Lokur, S Abdul Nazeer, and Deepak Gupta ordered yesterday (Oct. 29).

The judges are deliberating arguments to mitigate lethal levels of pollution in NCR—New Delhi and its satellite cities which are bracing for another smog-laden winter this year.

Though the top court on earlier occasions has directed the creation of online portals for grievance redress, this is the first time it has endorsed the use of social media to reach out to people. 

“There is widespread garbage burning and construction happening without any control. So citizen vigilance makes the system more accountable,” said Anumita Roychowdhury, executive director of the New Delhi-based think-tank Centre for Science and Environment.

A growing number of government bodies in India are taking to Twitter, Facebook, and WhatsApp to address complaints. Some, like the Mumbai police, are recognised for their responsiveness as well as humour.

Ban on old vehicles

The supreme court also banned old diesel and petrol fuel vehicles from plying in NCR.

It ordered the traffic police to seize diesel vehicles older than 15 years and petrol vehicles older than 10 years if found plying on the road.

“The list of such vehicles should be published on the websites of the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) and the transport departments of NCR,” the court said.

The ban was first imposed by India’s National Green Tribunal in 2015, but the Indian government had challenged it in the supreme court, calling a 15-year-old limit for diesel vehicles too high.

Since then, New Delhi’s air quality has deteriorated. The air quality index reached the 999-mark last year, more than three times the level considered hazardous.

On Oct. 29, the WHO released a report on clean air which said that exposure to ambient particulate matter of diametre under 2.5 micrometres (PM 2.5) killed 60,987 infants in India in 2016, the highest for any country in the world.

This year, levels in a few areas of the capital have already crossed 800.