Calling the capital a gas chamber, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal Saturday said Union Environment Minister A M Dave should call an emergency meeting of the chief ministers of Delhi and its neighbouring states to find a solution to the problem of pollution. Kejriwal also met Dave on Saturday — the most polluted day of the season so far.
“Pollution levels in Delhi are so high that Delhi has become a gas chamber. Smoke from other states because of stubble burning and meteorological factors are responsible. The environment minister should call an emergency meeting of the chief ministers of Delhi and its neighbouring states on Monday so that immediate steps to tackle the issue can be taken… This situation needs the intervention of the Centre at the highest level. Farmers should be given incentives to find alternates to burning stubble,” said Kejriwal.
“Delhi has its set of sources of pollution such as road dust, vehicular pollution and open burning but these existed even a month ago. According to our assessment, the pollution and smoke are coming in a large quantity from neighbouring states because of crop stubble burning… I was in Punjab and Haryana and there is smoke in the air just like here. How we can tackle the problem, only the Centre can say,” he said.
According to satellite images shared by NASA, crop stubble burning has been on the rise over the last three weeks, with the peak being reached this week.
Farmers in Punjab and Haryana harvest paddy in October and November using harvesters that leave behind an 8-10 inch long stem above the ground. Most farmers prefer to burn it instead of uprooting it as it takes lesser time.
Kejriwal said he has directed relevant authorities in Delhi to limit dust and burning pollution in the city, but the current problem requires a bigger effort.
“The Delhi government can’t remove pollution on its own. We don’t have the methods to limit pollution from other states. There will be no shortage of efforts from our side. We are also planning to commission another study on the sources of pollution from a good agency as all the studies we have are one-two years old. We will also start vacuum cleaning roads from next week. Spot tenders have already been issued. To tackle the problem at this stage, we are also going to sprinkle roads with water so that road dust settles. Strict orders against waste burning have been issued,” he said.
The government was supposed to start vacuum cleaning its arterial roads in April this year. Four machines were engaged for a few days but problems in the tendering process meant that the project could not take off.
Effectively ruling out the third phase of the odd-even road rationing project anytime soon, Kejriwal said it will not help improve air quality in the current conditions. “Odd-even can only stop vehicular pollution. When pollution is coming from outside, it can’t help improve the air quality,” he said.
Lieutenant Governor Najeeb Jung also called an emergency meeting on Monday.