Modifying its earlier order to reduce pollution in the National Capital Region (NCR), a two-judge bench of India's Supreme Court has given a breather to the construction sector by allowing construction activity in the day time from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.
In early November, the top court had banned all construction-related work in the city due to air quality being very poor and unhealthy.
Supreme Court Judges Arun Mishra and Deepak Gupta's decision is expected to help restart dozens of stalled government-sanctioned and private projects, providing daily wages to hundreds of construction workers and labourers.
The NCR covers the whole of National Capital's Territory (NCT)-Delhi and certain districts of the Indian states of Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan. It is spread over an area of about 55,083 square kilometres.
"At present, with the situation not being severe the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) is of the considered opinion that a partial ban could be in place for construction activities," a board report submitted to the court said.
"No construction should be permitted during night time between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m.," the CPCB further stated.
Meanwhile, in a separate though related development, the apex court has asked the central government to explore all available technology, including initiatives to set up smog towers to bring down pollution in the region. The government has been directed to file its action-taken report on 11 December.
On its part, the government has informed the court that a committee has been appointed to examine options to reduce pollution and draw a long-term strategy to deal with it. The court said the central government and the Delhi government should work out solutions jointly.
In November, air pollution was declared toxic and at emergency levels, having a debilitating impact on the life-spans of people living in the NCR. This lead the apex court to ban all construction and demolition work in the region on 4 November till further orders and prescribe a fine of Rs. 100,000 (Over $1400) for violations.
The court also banned the use of diesel-run generators and directed Indian states to ensure power supplies 24x7.
The air quality index, however, continues to be grim.