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Other states not doing enough to cut air pollution, says Delhi govt

Environment minister Gopal Rai on Friday said even though the AAP government is going all out to lead the battle against bad air quality, the neighbouring states are not doing enough despite contributing to air pollution every winter in a major way, and at a time when the situation is becoming dangerous amid the Covid pandemic.

Rai’s comments came even as instances of crop stubble burning in neighbouring Haryana and Punjab are rising, and smoke from the fields is travelling to the city, adding to its pollution load. The air quality index (AQI) in the capital touched the poor category for the first time this season on Wednesday.

On Friday, Delhi’s air quality remained in the “poor category” for the third day with the AQI recorded at 202, as per the Central Pollution Control Board’s (CPCB) 4 pm bulletin . A day before, the AQI was 208. The index enters the ‘poor zone’ between 201 and 300 .

“The neighbouring states have not been taking stringent action against stubble burning, which is on the rise even this year when the situation is becoming more dangerous with the Covid-19 pandemic,” Rai said, adding all that Delhi government wants is cooperation from the states because they have to come together to fight pollution.

He said the Delhi government has been repeatedly requesting the Centre and the states to curb stubble burning by adopting the bio-decomposer technology developed by the Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI), Pusa, which Delhi is already experimenting.

“The decomposer can be an effective solution to stubble burning for both Haryana and Punjab and will help Delhi get rid of the smoke from farm fires that make the city a gas chamber every year,” Rai told HT.

Reacting to Rai’s comments, PPCB secretary Krunesh Garg denied the charge that Punjab is soft on farm fires, saying the state has already fined 460 erring farmers. “Delhi has made it a habit of blaming Punjab for its poor AQI, which has no link with Punjab farm fires. As for the numbers, it is early harvest and there has been a slight increase in the number of farm fires as compared to the corresponding period last year. Out of 1,900-odd satellite images so far, half have not even been found to be farm fires”, said Garg.

Haryana chief secretary, Vijai Vardhan said the state government is monitoring active fire locations twice a day using satellite imagery followed by an on-ground check in every village of paddy-growing districts. “We have appointed nodal officers for every village to get the satellite imagery of active fire locations to verify cases of stubble burning. Agriculture department officials have been empowered to get first information reports lodged against offenders,’’ the chief secretary said.

On Friday, Gopal Rai inspected demolition and construction work at the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) auditorium and Pragati Maidan and said he found violation of anti-dust measures.

Warning of penalties, he said the demolition work would be stopped at FICCI if anti-smog guns were not installed. “Out of 39 major construction sites identified inside Delhi, only six sites have not installed anti-smog guns, one of them is FICCI,” he said in a statement on Friday, adding they found debris lying uncovered on Friday.

Despite repeated calls and comments, deputy director (Media) of FICCI Anurag Mankhand did not comment at the time of writing this story.

“We instructed them to cover the open debris immediately and not to start working until an anti-smog gun is installed. The person or agency responsible for not following guidelines will be fined as per rules. A notice will be sent to the person/agency concerned,” he said.

Earlier this week, Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal had launched a mega action plan as a part of which a ‘green war room’ was set up at the Delhi Secretariat to monitor steps being taken to bring down pollution levels.

To prevent dust pollution, the Delhi government has issued detailed guidelines for small to large construction sites regarding the sprinkling of water, covering of material, movement of vehicles and debris, etc.

“Delhi government has made detailed norms for the construction sites and directed all the agencies to follow these norms. Wherever construction work is being done, instructions have been given to follow the given norms. It has been made mandatory to install green parks at all construction sites,” Rai said.

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