November 1, 2019 3:57:36 am
In the run-up to Diwali, the Delhi government gave the impression that it was alert to the pollution concerns associated with the festival. It ran awareness campaigns to wean people off fire crackers, arranged cleanliness drives and organised a laser show. Yet the post-Diwali smog has kept its date with Delhi. On Wednesday, two days after the festival, the city’s Air Quality Index exceeded the “severe level”. Delhi’s Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal seems to believe that the bad air this year is due to reasons beyond his government’s control. “The people of Delhi are doing what they can to control pollution. I request the BJP to talk to their governments in Uttar Pradesh and Haryana and the Congress to speak to their government in Punjab to ensure that they don’t burn stubble,” he said. The Delhi CM’s statement has drawn an angry reaction from his Punjab counterpart, who accused Kejriwal “of blaming others for his lapses”. “Delhi’s air pollution is directly related to construction activity, industrialisation and mismanagement of traffic,” says Amarinder Singh.
The jury is still out on the prime source of the capital’s pollution. But by all accounts, Delhi’s air quality is the outcome of the complex interplay of the pollution footprints of local activities and pollutants from upwind states. It would be facetious, therefore, to rule out the impact of stubble burning on the city’s air. Data from the Punjab Remote Sensing Centre shows that the state recorded more than 15,000 stubble burning incidents between September 23 and October 28. The Centre-run System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting and Research estimates that more than 35 per cent of Delhi’s pollution on Wednesday was a fallout of stubble burning in the city’s neighbourhood. Governments in Punjab and Haryana have been providing subsidies to farmers to buy modern farm equipment for management of paddy straw. But, as a report in this paper shows, many farmers in Punjab do not want to invest in these machines because they lie idle for most of the year — unlike tractors.
It would be unfortunate if the battle for clear skies in Delhi and its neighbourhood is reduced to a confrontation between the national capital and its neighbouring states. At “very poor”, the post-Diwali AQI in Ludhiana and Jalandhar in Punjab, and Ambala, Kurukshetra and Sirsa in Haryana is only a notch better than that of Delhi. It is imperative, therefore, that Delhi and its neighbouring governments acknowledge the local and regional sources of the problem — and cooperate to resolve it.
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