A severe smog and air pollution outbreak has left the citizens of Delhi gasping for breath.
As the air quality in the national capital continued to remain in the ‘severe’ category for the second consecutive day on Friday, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal characterised air pollution as an all-India crisis.
“We take full responsibility for increasing farm fires in Punjab,” he said, adding however that it has been just six months since they formed the government there. “We have taken steps to control it. Stubble burning will come down by next year,” he said. Asserting that it is not time to point fingers, the Aam Aadmi Party national convener said that the central government needs to devise a joint action plan for the issue.
“The Kejriwal government is not solely responsible for the worsening air quality,” he said at a press conference today, with Punjab CM Bhagwant Mann by his side. Additionally, Kejriwal tweeted a list of air pollution levels in some cities in northern India, in the states of Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, and Rajasthan.
He wrote: “See pollution in North Indian towns. Its not just Punjab and Del. Entire North India suffering from severe pollution. Lets stop blame game. Lets find solutions as a country. It’s our first yr in Punjab. Punjab govt tried its best in short time. By next yr, we shud see good results.”
According to Mann, stubble burning is increasingly common since farm produce is at record levels. In addition to bajra, poplars, and vegetables, the Punjab leader said that his government is looking at diversifying from paddy next year, provided that farmers get appropriate Minimum Support Prices.
Meanwhile, Kejriwal has announced that schools in the national capital will be closed for primary classes starting tomorrow, adding that the “odd-even” policy would be considered and implemented if necessary. The schools will also cancel all outdoor sports activities for students from class 5 onwards. In addition, the chief minister said that 1.20 lakh machines had been procured for burying parali (stubble) in Punjab.
“40 lakh acres where parali is burnt, we will try to help farmers to sow other pulses like mustard so that there is no burning next year… We are planning and taking several initiatives with the farmers and other concerned stakeholders to stop this parali issue,” added the CM, according to the Indian Express.
SAFAR, an agency under the Ministry of Earth Sciences, estimates that stubble burning contributes about 34 percent to Delhi’s air pollution. The percentage share has increased by 7 percent since last year. The Indian Agricultural Research Institute reports an increase of more than 20 percent in stubble-burning cases in Punjab, while both Haryana and Uttar Pradesh report a decrease of around 30 percent.
Meanwhile, the matter regarding Delhi’s air pollution has reached the Supreme Court, with a Bench headed by Chief Justice UU Lalit scheduled to hear it on November 10. The counsel in the case has noted that AQI levels have never crossed 500 in the last few years. “Even those who are fit are suffering. The situation has worsened because of a 22 percent rise in stubble burning in Punjab. We request the Supreme Court to hear it today or tomorrow as it involves the right to life of people at large,” added the counsel.