PK Mishra, the principal secretary to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, on Sunday discussed the air pollution in the National Capital Region at a high-level meeting with officials from Punjab, Haryana and Delhi. After the meeting, it was decided that Cabinet Secretary Rajiv Gauba will monitor the situation in these states on a daily basis.
The chief secretaries of the three states were asked to monitor the situation in their districts on a 24x7 basis, the Prime Minister’s Office said in a statement.
The burning of crop stubble in Punjab and Haryana is said to be a major reason behind the toxic air quality in the city in the early winter. Pollution levels in Delhi spiked further on Sunday morning, with 10 out of 11 air monitoring stations in the region recording “severe-plus” air quality, according to the government-run monitoring agency System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting and Research, or SAFAR.
SAFAR’s overall air quality index in Delhi was 708 at 6.15 pm, which is even beyond the severe levels. The 24-hour average calculated by the Central Pollution Control Board was 494 at 4 pm, the worst since the 497-mark recorded on November 6, 2016, according to PTI. The Delhi government had on Friday announced a public health emergency.
SAFAR measures Delhi’s air quality based on index values recorded at up to nine stations spread across the city and one each in Noida and Gurugram. An AQI between 0 and 50 is considered “good”, 51-100 is “satisfactory”, 101-200 “moderate”, 201-300 “poor”, 301-400 “very poor” and 401-500 “severe”. Anything above 400 poses a risk for people with respiratory illnesses and can affect even those with healthy lungs.
All schools in Delhi, Noida and Greater Noida have been closed until Tuesday. Poor visibility due to the haze in the National Capital Region led to 37 flights at Delhi airport being diverted to other airports between 9 am and 1 pm.
Meanwhile, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal issued a video message, urging all neighbouring states and the Centre to sit together and discuss how to prevent stubble burning. “This matter should not be politicised,” Kejriwal said. “People of Delhi did everything they could to reduce pollution in the city but concrete steps have to be taken against stubble burning.”
Kejriwal said: “Till now, 63,000 machines have been made available to farmers in Punjab and Haryana. There are 27 lakh farmers in these states. How long would it take to distribute these machines to all these farmers? For how long do we have to bear this pollution?”
Stubble burning contributed 46% to Delhi’s pollution on Friday, the highest so far, according to SAFAR. The figure dropped to 17% on Saturday and was expected to be 12% on Sunday.
Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh said that his government had acted against nearly 2,923 farmers in 20,729 cases of stubble burning till November 1, PTI reported. He accused Kejriwal of doing little beyond “playing politics” to address the problem. “Statistics show the parameters on the factors relating to the pollution were higher in Delhi,” Singh claimed.
The Delhi government will enforce the odd-even road rationing scheme from Monday until November 15. Special Commissioner of Police (Traffic) Taj Hassan said 200 teams of four police personnel each will be deployed across the city for smooth implementation of the scheme, PTI reported.
The Delhi government issued a health advisory for residents on Sunday. The advisory urged people to avoid outdoor physical activities and stay indoors.
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