As Delhi saw the worst pollution of the season on Saturday, the central government described the situation as an “emergency”. A meeting of environment ministers of all states neighbouring Delhi is likely to be held on Monday to explore ways to address the crisis.
Environment Minister Anil Madhav Dave appealed for a united response, and said that no one should indulge in a political blame-game on fighting pollution. Dave’s remarks came after Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal met him and asked for curbs on the burning of farm stubble in neighbouring states which, he said, had turned Delhi into a “gas chamber”.
“There is an emergency situation in Delhi. The situation is bad, particularly for children, patients, women and elderly. We need to take immediate steps to deal with the situation,” Dave told reporters after meeting Kejriwal at his residence.
The smog that hung low over the city kept pollution levels extremely high, breaching the safe limit by over 17 times at several places. Asked whether a health advisory would be issued, Dave said it might be, after consultation with the Health Ministry, if the need arose. He, however, felt that people were already aware of the situation.
Kejriwal said the Delhi government had very few options at its disposal, and the Centre needed to intervene. “The Centre can sit with the chief ministers of these states and chalk out a solution. A few reports have put the volume of stubble being burned at around 16-20 million tonnes. Fireworks during Diwali added marginally to the pollution. But other things inside Delhi did not drastically change. So the smog is mainly due to smoke from farm fires,” he said.
The chief minister also appealed to people to minimise the use of private vehicles and use public transport instead. Terming the situation as “very alarming”, Dave said that there was a need to take short-term measures to deal with the situation immediately. He said he had discussed with Kejriwal “emergency measures” including ways to contain dust pollution and crop-burning.
“There are five reasons triggering air pollution that include use of firewood, coal, diesel, petrol and burning of agricultural waste. We have to find solution to address the problem. We should imbibe self-discipline in our routine lifestyle. If I don’t minimise use of my four cars and expect other people to use cycles, that should not be happen. We should collectively come under self-regulation,” he said. Both Dave and Kejriwal said that shutting schools was not the solution.
Dave said due to high levels of PM 10 and PM 2.5, the situation has been bad through the year in Delhi, but factors like crop-burning and firecrackers had added to the deterioration in air quality. “There is no one particular reason behind alarming air pollution in Delhi. We need to collectively address all issues and improve air quality. We should not indulge in political blame game,” the minister said.
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