The Supreme Court, today, while hearing the Writ Petition filed by MC Mehta, seeking directions to authorities to check worsening air pollution in Delhi and adjoining areas, has criticised the authorities concerned after they conceded that they will take until 2027 to build a facility of sufficient capacity for managing the solid waste generated in the capital city.

The Court was told that Delhi is generating 3800 tons of solid waste every day beyond its capacity for processing.

The Court has directed the Secretary of the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs (MOHUA) of the Government of India to convene a meeting of all concerned authorities governing the areas of NCT of Delhi to find a solution and place the same before the Court.

The Bench of Justice Abhay S Oka and Justice Ujjal Bhuyan ordered, "Considering the development which is taking place in Delhi and the surrounding area, it is obvious that generation of solid waste every day is bound to increase and none of the authorities, MCD and the other authorities connected with the upper side cities are in a position to deal with that. Therefore the immediate measure should be, to ensure that the present quantity of untreated solid waste should not increase till proper facilities are in place, therefore all the authorities will have to consider various methods to do that, including putting restraints on the construction activity in their aforesaid areas. We, therefore, direct the Secretary of the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs of the Government of India to convene a meeting of all concerned authorities governing the aforesaid areas to find out a solution and place the same before the court. In the event the authorities fail to come out with any concrete proposals we have to consider passing a drastic order with a view to take care of the environment in the capital city of Delhi and surrounding areas. A report should be prepared by the Secretary of the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs Department of the Government of India and place it before the court on or before the 19th of July 2024."

Senior Advocate Menaka Guruswamy appeared for the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) and submitted that MCD can only increase its capacity for processing solid waste in the next three years.

To this Justice Oka sternly remarked, "So until 2027, 3800 tons of unprocessed waste will be generated every day?... We will summon the highest corporation officer...It is a sorry state of affairs...This is the capital city...Nobody is even bothered. The Union should hold a meeting to ensure this 3000 is not increased further and is tackled."

Guruswamy said, " do we increase the capacity when the 4 plants are under litigation..."

Justice Oka said, "Nobody understands it...what the world will say about India that in the capital city, 3800 tons of solid waste being untreated every day...what will happen in 2025, 2026...?"

ASG Aishwarya Singh Bhati appeared for the Urban Development Department and submitted that we have convened the meeting with other authorities.

Justice Oka said, "Surprisingly even after passing such a strong order, no authorities have found out how much will it increase every day....tell us which construction we need to stop in Delhi."

The Court perused the figures of Gurugram, Ghaziabad, Faridabad, and Greater NOIDA and showed concern over Amicus's comment 'horrifying' in all areas.

Justice Oka said "We will pass it over. Get instructions on the exact figure. Tell your officers we want simple answers. This is a vital issue...We will pass a comprehensive order. Mr SG, you should also look at this sorry state of affairs...What signal are we giving the world? This issue is not about politics. MCD is not able to answer our questions today. No affidavit by them."

The matter was passed over and in the second half, the Court gave aforesaid directions.

The Court also observed, "It is an admitted position by all concerned that within the limits of MCD, every day there is a generation of 3800 tons of solid waste which cannot be created in the sense that the existing plans do not have the capacity to treat the same. This is the sorry state of affairs in the capital city of Delhi. Now we have been told across the bar by the senior counsel representing MCD that only by June 2027, a facility will come into existence which would be able to deal with an excess quantity of 3800 tons of solid waste, which means that for a period of more than 3 years from now Delhi will have 3800 tons of untreated solid waste accumulating in someplace. As noted in the earlier order, this poses a great danger to the environment of the capital city.."

The Court also highlighted the total generation of waste and the capacity to hold that waste in Gurugram, Greater NOIDA and Faridabad. Gurugram has 1200 tons/day generation of waste with a capacity of approx 1000 tons/day; Faridabad has a generation of 1000 tonne/day with a capacity of only 240 tons/day and Greater NOIDA has a total generation of 350 tons/day with a capacity of approx. 120 tons/day.

The Court also said "We hope and trust that all the authorities will take the issue with great seriousness as prima facie impression which we gather is that none of the authorities have bothered to consider the drastic consequences of not having adequate capacity to deal with solid waste generated every day. We may add here that the generation of untreated solid waste in such huge quantity destroys the environment which directly affects the fundamental rights of the citizens under Article 21 of the Constitution of India to live in a pollution-free environment."

On the last day of the hearing, the Supreme Court, on perusal of a report submitted by the Commission for Air Quality Management (CAQM), had expressed concern over 3000 tonnes of unprocessed municipal solid waste every day in the Delhi-NCR. The Court had also criticised the municipal authorities i.e. Delhi Municipal Corporation (DMC), New Delhi Municipal Corporation (NDMC) and Cantonment Board(CB), Delhi for non-compliance with the Solid Waste Management Rules, 2016, therefore, directed DMC to take instructions and issued notice to the NDMC and CB, Delhi.

Cause Title: M.C. Mehta v. Union of India & Ors. (Writ Petition (Civil) No. 13029 of 1985)