Bangladesh cricket players cover their faces with a mask to protect themselves from the pollution, during a practice session at Arun Jaitley Stadium a day before their
T20 match in New Delhi on Saturday
NEW DELHI/CHANDIGARH :
AMID a blame game over failure to check toxic haze that has enveloped the national capital and neighbouring areas, the Governments of Delhi, Punjab and Haryana on Saturday called for urgent intervention by the Centre to develop and implement a joint plan with the States to address the “serious” situation. Delhi’s Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia accused Union Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar of postponing meetings with State Environment Ministers thrice, on September 12, October 17 and on October 19, saying either he has no time or does not consider treating the national capital’s poor air quality a priority. He also claimed that with the Centre making 63,000 machines to stop stubble burning available in two years, it might take 50-60 years to implement the programme and asked “what should the people of Delhi-NCR do” during this period Sisodia’s remarks came on a day Javadekar alleged that Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal was politicising the issue by asking school students to write letters to his Punjab and Haryana counterparts over pollution caused due to stubble burning and was to trying to project the other Chief Minister as “villains”.
“We have started holding inter-State meetings of NCR ministers and officials. All stakeholders need to act together and not blame each other,” he said. Kejriwal, meanwhile, wrote to Javadekar saying air pollution “is not a Delhi specific issue, it is a North India issue and therefore, requires a North India solution under the “chairmanship” of the Union Minister. Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar also wrote to Javadekar requesting him to convene a meeting of Chief Ministers of Delhi and neighbouring States to prepare a joint strategy to address the problem of severe pollution in the National Capital Region.
Without naming anyone, Khattar also criticised the “growing tendency” on the part of some stakeholders to “play petty politics” on the issue. The AAP Government in Delhi has been blaming BJP-ruled Haryana and the Congress-ruled Punjab for failing to check stubble burning which is considered one of the main contributors to air pollution in the Delhi-NCR region.
The Haryana Chief Minister, in a telephonic conversation with Javadekar earlier in the day, requested him to convene a meeting, preferably on Sunday. Following up his conversation with a letter, Khattar said the meeting of all Chief Ministers and environment ministers of the States concerned would help evolve an actionable plan and a joint strategy to address the serious situation. In a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh too stressed on the need for the Centre’s urgent intervention, underscoring that his state was not oblivious to the misery of people in the national capital, “whatever many around the country might have been led to believe.” He also noted that the Centre had failed to respond to his proposal for a separate bonus amount at the rate of Rs 100 per quintal to facilitate stubble management by the farmers.
Air quality remains severe in Delhi-NCR, crackdown on violaters
AIR quality remained in the ‘severe’ category in Delhi and surrounding cities on Saturday despite marginal dip in pollution while Haryana and Punjab too were blanketed by haze. A day after the Delhi-NCR recorded its worst air quality forcing authorities to shut schools, ban construction activities and declare a public health emergency, the overall air quality index (AQI) was at 402 at 8 pm, as against 484 on Friday, following light winds and scattered rainfall. The share of stubble burning in Delhi’s pollution also reduced from 44 per cent on Friday, the season’s highest, to 17 per cent on Saturday. In a crackdown on violators, authorities arrested 38 people including a director and three engineers, from sites of five real estate groups in Noida and Greater Noida for carrying out construction activities despite the ban. The SDMC also issued four challans of Rs 5 lakh each to construction firms involved in the work in Pragati Maidan.