Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal.(HT file photo)
Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal.(HT file photo)

Monthly CMs’ meet necessary to stop stubble fires: Arvind Kejriwal

Addressing a digital press conference, Kejriwal said he agrees with Javadekar’s recent statement that coordinated efforts of all the neighbouring states were required to address the annual problem of air pollution, which peaks during winter and becomes a public health emergency year after year.
Hindustan Times, New Delhi | By HT Correspondent
UPDATED ON OCT 20, 2020 01:32 AM IST

Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal on Monday urged Union environment minister Prakash Javadekar to start convening monthly meetings of the chief ministers of all northern states in order to find a permanent solution to stubble burning, which he said is the primary source of air pollution in the city during this time of the year.

Addressing a digital press conference, Kejriwal said he agrees with Javadekar’s recent statement that coordinated efforts of all the neighbouring states were required to address the annual problem of air pollution, which peaks during winter and becomes a public health emergency year after year.

“But, I disagree when he said it will take around four years to fully address the annual problem of air pollution during the winter months. I feel if all states and the central government come together on a war footing, leaving behind politics, we can control pollution in much lesser time than four years,” he said.

The chief minister said a number of alternatives to burning stubble were already being practised at various places and demanded that such activities needed to be scaled up by all the northern states.

The Delhi government has already started sprinkling fermented low-cost liquid solutions prepared in coordination with IARI Pusa scientists in the city’s farmlands for free. This solution converts the stubble into manure at a minimal cost, the scientists and the government say.

According to the Delhi government, stubble burning -- mostly by farmers of the paddy-growing states of Punjab, Haryana and parts of western UP among others -- contributes 44% to the city’s pollution every winter, a claim contested by Punjab. In fact, its pollution control board member secretary Krunesh Garg said Delhi has made a habit of blaming Punjab for its poor AQI, which has no link with Punjab farm fires.

This year, the farm fires, which peaks during October and November, has started early on, Nasa images show.

Delhi on Monday recorded an over air quality index (AQI) of 244 in the ‘poor’ category, with stubble burning contributing 10% to the city’s pollution, official data showed.

Kejriwal said a factory in Karnal, Haryana, is using stubble to make compressed bio gas (CBG), which is bought by Indraprastha Gas Limited in Delhi.

In Punjab, Kejriwal said, seven factories make coke out of stubble and supply it to NTPC Limited, which runs several thermal power plants across the country. Others, he said, have started making cardboard from stubble.

“So there are numerous ways in which stubble can be used instead of burning them and causing pollution. Implementing these in a big scale will also generate a lot of employment. But all the states need to execute this and ensure no stubble is burnt,” Kejriwal said.

He said right now, stubble has become a liability for everyone, which needs to be turned into an opportunity.

“For this, it is necessary that the Union minister starts convening one meeting every month of all the chief ministers of states such as Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Punjab. At present, the Central government holds meetings with the environment ministers concerned. But, the issue needs bigger intervention and the CMs must come up and take charge. “

“We will sit with our respective experts and environment ministers and brainstorms with other states to bring a lasting solution to the problem. Sharp deadlines and timelines should be made. Engineers and experts have given their solutions, now there is need only for political will power,” he said.

Hindustan Times contacted Press Information Bureau (PIB) for a response on Kejriwal’s presser. Though Javadekar did not respond, a senior CPCB official said the environment minister and the ministry had organised 38 meetings with NCR states since 2018.

On Sunday, Javadekar had said the problem of air pollution cannot be solved in a day and that it is a continuous process. He said the number of “bad air days” in Delhi had reduced from 250 in 2016 to 180 in 2020.

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