Govt fixes blame for smog as Delhi gasps for breath, but no solution in sight
With air quality in the Capital still in the ‘severe’ zone, accompanied by the worst smog the city has witnessed in nearly two decades, Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal admitted on Friday that pollution was a serious issue and identified three principal causes. But he didn’t offer any solution, like he did at last year.
With air quality in the Capital still in the ‘severe’ zone, accompanied by the worst smog the city has witnessed in nearly two decades, Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal admitted on Friday that pollution was a serious issue and identified three principal causes.
But he didn’t offer any solution, like he did at last year’s Hindustan Times Leadership Summit.
Experts said knowing a problem does not mean solving it.
Kejriwal told India Today TV that the main reasons for the poor air quality were crop stubble burning in Punjab and Haryana, road dust and vehicular pollution.
“Crop burning has emerged as the primary reason. Dust pollution is another main factor, followed by vehicular emission,” Kejriwal said.
But a slew of measures promised by the AAP government — ranging from simultaneous vacuum cleaning and water sprinkling of roads to installing outdoor air purifiers and mist machines at five busy junctions — have not been implemented, even though the government had months to prepare for winter pollution. None of these measures, in any case, are regarded as viable long-term options.
“The Delhi government had a lead time of one year to prepare for winter pollution and carry forward the gains from last year when action on trucks, diesel cars, penalty on waste and construction, along with the odd-even scheme made a small dent to pull back peak pollution. But instead of building on the momentum, the government slowed down post-winter,” Anumita Roychowdhury, executive director (operations) at the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) told Hindustan Times.
“People are suffering. There has been a lot of talk. It is now time for action!”
By 9pm on Friday, 10 of the 17 places in Delhi where air quality is measured by the Hindustan Times Air Quality Index monitor were in the dangerous deep-red zone, with the PM 2.5 particulate matter in Connaught Place more than 10 times the prescribed limit of 60 umg/m3.
Doctors said a spike in patients with respiratory disorders continues across the city.
“There have been a large number of people in our pulmonary out-patient department with cough and breathlessness, without previous history of respiratory illness,” said professor GC Khilnani of the All-India Institute of Medical Sciences.
The only AAP government measure that did take off — once in January and once in April — was the 15-day odd-even road rationing policy. However, once that did not make a big enough impact on pollution, the state government pulled back.
Measures promised by the Centre and its pollution control boards, have not taken off either. Stubble burning continues unabated and Delhi is still being used as a thoroughfare by trucks.
A review meeting of environment secretaries of NCR states on Friday offered nothing but tokenism, with Union environment secretary AN Jha asking states to implement measures to tackle pollution, including spread of fly ash from Delhi’s Badarpur plant and shutting down brick kilns.
The National Green Tribunal pulled up the Delhi government for not enforcing its earlier order to de-register diesel vehicles that are more than 10 years old.
“With every winter, conditions in Delhi are getting worse. The need of the hour is that the agencies work together in tackling the problem, and get people to collaborate, before the situation becomes a health emergency. Plans on paper will not help, unless they are implemented,” said Dr Padnabhan Gowda, principal researcher, health and environment policy, IIT-Delhi.
“People are now left to deal with this situation on their own.”
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