The Principal Secretary to Prime Minister Narendra Modi held a high-level meeting Sunday evening through video conferencing with states of Punjab, Haryana and Delhi to tackle the rising levels of air pollution in the city.
It was decided that the Cabinet Secretary will monitor the situation with these states on a daily basis. State Chief Secretaries have also been asked to monitor their districts on a 24×7 basis. The Centre has asked neighboring states to reduce fire incidents and dust levels due to adverse meteorological conditions. During the video-conference, Chief Secretaries of States provided details about the actions being taken by them to improve the situation.
The Principal Secretary to PM had earlier reviewed the situation on October 24. A series of meetings had taken place for necessary preparation including one meeting by the Cabinet Secretary on this subject on October 4.
With air quality deteriorating further in the national capital region, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal called on the Centre to take immediate steps to improve the situation and said his government will support it.
The pollution levels have risen to ‘severe-plus emergency‘ category in the national capital. At 12 pm, the air quality index (AQI) of Delhi was at 625, according to the data by the System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting And Research (SAFAR). At 9 am, the AQI stood at 410. Follow Delhi, NCR pollution LIVE Updates
An AQI between 0-50 is considered ‘good’, 51-100 ‘satisfactory’, 101-200 ‘moderate’, 201-300 ‘poor’, 301-400 ‘very poor’ and 401-500 ‘severe’. Above 500 falls in the ‘severe-plus emergency’ category.
“Pollution has reached unbearable levels across N India. Del govt taken many steps. Delhiites have made many sacrifices. Del suffering for no fault of theirs. Punjab CM also expressed concern. Centre shud take immediate steps 2 provide relief. V will support Centre in all initiatives,” Kejriwal tweeted.
While addressing the citizens through the AK App, the chief minister urged people not to blame the residents of the city for the situation. “Where is our fault? Between February and October, the air was clean. What has happened in the last few days? I don’t suppose the people here purchased over one lakh vehicles. The pollution is due to stubble burning from neighbouring states,” he said.
At least 32 flights have been diverted from Delhi towards Jaipur, Amritsar, and Lucknow, news agency PTI reported. Air India also said that 12 of its flights have been diverted due to bad weather conditions.
Meanwhile, all government and private schools up till Class 12 in Noida and Greater Noida will remain closed on November 4 and 5 in the wake of a spike in the pollution level, officials said on Sunday.
The Gautam Buddh Nagar administration said the decision has been taken as the levels of particulate matter 2.5 and 10 have been excessive in the air since Diwali, resulting in a major dip in the overall air quality.
Pollution has rched unbearable levels across N India. Del govt taken many steps. Delhiites hv made many sacrifices. Del suffering for no fault of theirs. Punjab CM also expressd concern. Centre shud take immediate steps 2 provide relief. V will support Centre in all initiatives https://t.co/Vx85xYlDId
— Arvind Kejriwal (@ArvindKejriwal) November 3, 2019
On Saturday, Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and urged him to find a consensus on a solution for the health emergency, and admitted that stubble fires, accompanied by wind direction, were partly to blame.
A statement by Punjab CMO said Singh made it clear that he had no intent of brushing his hands off the state’s responsibility, but added that the entire country, including Delhi itself as well as the Centre, had allowed “this state of affairs to emerge and sustain, with our various acts of commission and omission”.
Delhi and Haryana, too, were doing what they could, he pointed out, but added that the role of the Centre had remained dubious.
Reacting to Singh’s letter, a Delhi government spokesperson said, “In 2017, when the Delhi CM went to Chandigarh, the Haryana CM met him but the Punjab CM refused to meet. Till three days ago, Singh said Punjab was being blamed wrongly for pollution and stubble burning. Why have they woken up so late? They said they will not take action against people burning crop stubble. This is irresponsible behaviour.”
Meanwhile, to curb the pollution levels, the Delhi government will start the odd-even vehicle rationing scheme from Monday.
On Friday, public health emergency was declared by the Supreme Court-mandated Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority (EPCA), which ordered a complete ban on construction till 6 am Tuesday.
The EPCA’s directions extended the existing ban — from 6 pm to 10 am — to the whole day till Tuesday morning. EPCA also ordered the closure of hot mix plants and stone crushers, along with the closure of all industries that have still not shifted to using natural gas (except power plants) to avoid the addition of more pollutants to the air.
Farm fires in Punjab peaked a day after Diwali, October 28, with 3,105 instances of paddy crop residue burning being reported from across the state in a single day. That and the fallout of firecrackers in Delhi has taken the air quality index (AQI) in the national capital to ‘severe’ levels — on Wednesday, it stood at 419.
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines