The National Capital Region, which was covered with dense smog for over a week, showed a marked improvement in the pollution level, with AQI level falling from ‘severe’ to ‘very poor’ on Tuesday. According to the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) data, the AQI level in the city was recorded at 308 today.
Rains expected on Wednesday may help in clearing the smog. The ban on the entry of trucks in the city was also extended till further notice looking at the fluctuation pollution in the region.
However, while the situation seems to be easing in the city, the political blame game and altercation continued over the steps that need to be taken to bring the situation under control.
NGT rejects AAP’s petition
Earlier in the day, the National Green Tribunal, which was hearing a petition by the AAP government, refused to exempt women and two-wheelers from the odd-even rationing scheme. Launching a scathing attack against the Arvind Kejriwal-led Delhi government, the green body said, “If you permit 68 lakh two-wheelers to ply, what will be the extent of the pollution? You said thousands of buses were ordered but have not got a single bus yet. You wait for a crisis.”
Criticising the government for using women safety as a garb to exempt women drivers from the scheme, the NGT asked “are you (Delhi government) not responsible for safety of ladies who do not have cars and travel by metros and buses on a daily basis? Why can’t you have a special ladies buses?”
The panel also ordered the government to initiate water sprinkling in high pollution areas and to ensure that over 10-year-old diesel vehicles are taken off the roads immediately.
The bench headed by NGT Chairperson Justice Swatanter Kumar also asked the adjoining states of Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh on what they have done to reduce the deteriorating air quality. “What is UP, Haryana and Punjab doing? All of you are just blaming each other. You cannot just shift blame,” it said.
The Delhi government withdrew the petition after the NGT rapped it for not taking adequate measures after dangerous levels of PM2.5 and PM10 persisted for more than 48 hours. “Don’t gift infected lungs to children. They have to wear masks to school. What constitutes a health emergency according to you? Measures should be applied automatically by the government after dangerous levels of PM 2.5 and PM 10 persist for more than 48 hours,” said NGT.
The government has, however, again moved NGT asking for the exemption to women drivers and two-wheelers for one year or till 2000 additional buses are arranged for commuting. The review petition also requested the panel to direct the neighbouring states to implement the odd-even scheme, news agency ANI reported.
The Delhi High Court also stressed on the need for additional buses in the city as a “grave urgency” and said the AAP government needed to address it on a “war-footing”. The bench also said that stubble burning in the states of Punjab and Haryana alone cannot be blamed for the poor air quality in the national capital if the Delhi government was not willing to take steps to augment public transport in the city.
War of words
The concerned state governments, meanwhile, continued to engage in a war of words with each other. Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh ruled out a meeting with Delhi CM Kejriwal, saying the discussion would be “futile and meaningless.” His response came after Kejriwal, who is going to Chandigarh to meet Haryana CM Manohar Lal Khattar, sought an appointment with Singh.
In reference to Kejriwal’s Chandigarh visit, Singh accused the Delhi CM of leaving the state in the midst of a crisis. “How else can one explain Kejriwal’s desperation to seek a meeting with me at this juncture, especially when I had categorically rejected such a suggestion earlier.”
Singh had earlier too described the AAP leader as a “peculiar man who has his own viewpoints on everything without understanding the situation.” Manohar Lal Khattar had also dissed Kejriwal yesterday, accusing him of not being able to “rise over short-term electoral interests.”
Delhi BJP President also accused the AAP government of failing to act on environment protection despite having “ample” resources and asked it to share details of spending of the environmental cess. Delhi BJP president Manoj Tiwari said, “This year when the people are suffering badly and an accumulated fund of Rs 775 crore lies at its disposal, the Kejriwal government has not found it worth spending on improving the environment.”
Union Environment Minister Harsh Vardhan, meanwhile, said there is no need to panic over the situation in Delhi, adding that it is not like the Bhopal gas tragedy which was an “emergency”. “I am talking in practical terms. You see, what happened in Bhopal when there was a gas leak and hundreds of thousands of people fell acutely sick and had to be rushed to hospital. We call that an emergency situation where you have to panic and you have to see what you have to do.”