As Delhi's air quality entered the red zone today with the number of farm fires increasing by four times over last year's, Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia attacked the central government saying all of north India would have to pay for its "inaction on the issue of air pollution".
"Pollution and stubble burning are not just issues pertaining to Delhi but this affects the whole of North India. It is a matter of regret that the central government did not take any action during the year, and now the whole country will pay for it," the Aam Aadmi Party leader said.
It is only in the last three months that everybody starts showing concern about air pollution and stubble burning, Mr Sisodia said, adding that the Delhi government had been working constantly towards reducing air pollution in the national capital.
He also appealed to the Supreme Court-appointed anti-pollution body seeking its intervention. "Is an institution like the EPCA also failing to get work done from the central as well as state governments?" Sisodia asked.
Mr Sisodia's comments come as Delhi skies turned grey and the Air Quality Index shot to 304 entering the "very poor" zone - worst since the beginning of this year.
This year, 2,873 incidents of stubble burning have been reported from farms across Punjab, shows data shared by Punjab's remote sensing centre in Ludhiana.
This is almost four times the number of farm fires that were reported in this period last year.
From 21st Sept to 12th Oct last year, 755 stubble burning incidents were reported in Punjab while 510 in 2018. This year, 2,873 such incidents have been reported during the same duration: Anil Sood, Head ACM division, Punjab Remote Sensing Centre, Ludhiana pic.twitter.com/QPNCGK4aiJ— ANI (@ANI) October 13, 2020
Health experts have been warning that severe air pollution could have a detrimental impact on the country's fight against the coronavirus.
The warning had come amid reports of farmers burning more paddy stubble this year in protest against the three contentious farm laws, viewed as anti-farmer.
In this background, there have been reports of villagers in Haryana and Punjab driving away government officials deputed to dissuade farmers from starting farm fires.
"The places where stubble is being burnt there the farmers are also suffering," Mr Sisodia said.
The comment comes as Delhi has started using an indigenously developed chemical which when sprinkled on paddy stubble decomposes it, turning it to manure.
Recently, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal had written to the Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar informing that Delhi had started using this chemical, and proposed its use across states to shift focus away from use of expensive machines that small farmers can ill afford.
The move would also eliminate the need for subsidies, Mr Kejriwal had written in his letter.
On October 1, Union Environment Minister Prakash Javadkar met environment ministers of Delhi and its four neighbouring states to review steps taken to curb air pollution, and allotted Rs 1,700 crore to check farm fires.