THE DELHI government announced a slew of measures last week to combat the deteriorating air quality in the capital but official data shows that action was not taken when it was really needed — in August, when pollution levels started to spike.
Figures collated from various departments of the Delhi government, municipal corporations and the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) show that more challans were issued against polluters — for open burning, construction, demolition, etc — from January to August than over the last three months.
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* Municipal corporations issued 1,885 challans for failure to control dust at construction sites between January and August but only 167 since then.
* The DDA and South Delhi Municipal Corporation did not issue a single challan for open burning — of dry leaves, garbage, etc — despite several parks being maintained by them.
* The revenue department issued 814 challans between January and August for failure to control dust at construction sites. Between August and October, only 40 challans were issued. It issued 136 challans for open burning between January and August but none since then.
* The North Delhi Municipal Corporation issued 88 challans during this period for burning; the East Delhi Municipal Corporation issued two; none of the other government agencies issued any challan for the offence, which attracts a fine of Rs 5,000 per violation.
And this, when the government had started receiving more complaints through social media and radio about construction and open burning since August.
These agencies submitted a report regarding the number of challans issued for dust control and burning to the Delhi government on October 26 during a review meeting, chaired by Environment Minister Imran Hussain.
According to the minutes of the meeting, signed by Special Secretary S M Ali, “The Hon’ble Minister (Environment) informed all the officers present about the complaints of burning of leaves/garbage, etc., that are being received on FM radio… The Nil action-taken report submitted by agencies regarding burning of leaves/garbage, etc., appear to be contradictory to the same. Hon’ble Minister stressed for more effective ground action by all concerned departments/ agencies specially considering the approaching winter season.”
Government sources said Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal has conveyed his displeasure to the environment department over its failure to implement measures to curb air pollution.
“When the order to curb dust pollution and open burning was issued last year by the National Green Tribunal, all agencies were asked to take strict action against violators. Some agencies were proactive till June-July, but things slowed down,” said an official, who did not want to be named.