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Tuesday, Oct 22, 2019

‘Avoid firecrackers this Diwali, but if must…’: Environment minister Prakash Javadekar

The minister was speaking on the measures taken by the Union government to improve Delhi’s air quality in recent years.

india Updated: Oct 07, 2019 21:34 IST
Soumya Pillai
Soumya Pillai
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
The pollution problem, the minister said, was first acknowledged by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government at the centre.
The pollution problem, the minister said, was first acknowledged by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government at the centre.(HT file photo)
         

Union minister Prakash Javadekar appealed on Monday for people to avoid using firecrackers during Diwali this year and said that if one must, “they should use only green firecrackers” in order to avoid an air pollution crisis that has become an annual problem during this time of the year.

The minister was speaking on the measures taken by the Union government to improve Delhi’s air quality in recent years. “I would say do not burn firecrackers. I hope that children, students will tell their parents to not bring firecrackers. If you have to, do not buy other firecrackers, buy green firecrackers,” he said.

The pollution problem, the minister said, was first acknowledged by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government at the centre. “Recognition of the existence of a problem is the beginning of finding a solution. Before 2014, no one even spoke about pollution monitoring. We have been proactive in fighting pollution,” he said.

The minister also spoke on the problem of stubble burning and said Centre has provided Rs 1,151 crore to state governments of Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Delhi for subsidy on machinery required for management of crop residue.

“The biggest question and it will come again is stubble burning… We have provided funds amounting to Rs 1,151.80 crore to state governments to give subsidies on machinery required for management of crop residue. With these mechanised options we are sure that stubble burning cases will go down,” Javadekar said.

There were 8,000 ‘agriculture management implements’ distributed in Punjab and 9,187 equipment given out in Haryana, the minister added.

“Recognition of the existence of a problem is the beginning of finding a solution for the problem. Before 2014, no one even spoke about pollution monitoring. We have been proactive in fighting pollution,” he said.

Citing a report by the ministry of agriculture, Javadekar said that the paddy residue burning incidents in 2018 had reduced by 15% compared to 2017 and 41% compared to 2016. Indian Council for Agricultural Research (ICAR) estimates show that in 2018, over 100,000 cases of crop stubble burning were reported.

Farmers in Punjab and Haryana burn paddy stubble left behind after harvest in order to turn the field around for sowing winter crops between mid-October and mid-November. The stubble remnants are a result of how harvesting machines commonly used are designed: they cut stalks a few inches above the ground, leaving the rest in the soil.

HT had on October 2 reported that satellite image analysis showed that there was a higher area under cultivation in Punjab and Haryana this year. A National Aeronautics and Space Administration (Nasa) scientist said this could lead to a spike in the number of stubble burning incidents.

Javadekar also targeted Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal for advertisements by the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government taking credit for bringing down pollution levels. “We do not believe in indulging in the politics of credit taking. People will not be fooled by lip service,” he said.

A senior official from the CM’s office said, “We are not after any credit. The union government can take all the credit. But we also request the centre that they take steps to reduce the stubble burning cases in the neighbouring states and bring down pollution levels in Delhi.”

First Published: Oct 07, 2019 21:13 IST

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