Hitting back at Union Environment Minister's assertion that stubble burning only contributes 4 per cent to Delhi's air pollution, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal today said staying in denial will not help.
The Delhi Chief Minister further questioned why the air quality in Delhi and the National Capital Region had worsened only in the last two weeks when farmers had started burning paddy stubble in its neighbouring states.
"Air (in NCR) was clean before that. It is the same story every year. There's no massive jump in any local source of pollution in last few days to cause this spike," said Mr Kejriwal, who also launched "Red Light On, Gaadi Off" campaign today.
Lets accept that stubble burning causes huge pollution every yr in North India during this time. And lets all together find a soln sincerely. Blame game and politics hasn't helped anyone. People r suffering. I am extremely worried that pollution will play havoc coupled wid corona— Arvind Kejriwal (@ArvindKejriwal) October 15, 2020
MLA Raghav Chadha of the Aam Aadmi Party - that has accused the central government of only making piece-meal efforts to address the annual public health hazard - quoted the pollution control body to counter Union Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar's charge that 96 per cent of Delhi's pollution was because of "biomass burning, garbage dumping, unpaved roads, dust, construction and demolition activities etc".
"The Central Pollution Control Board's own estimate of 2019 suggest stubble burning contributed up to 44 per cent to Delhi's air pollution. Ministry of Earth Sciences' SAFAR said at peak of stubble burning in Punjab and Haryana account for 44 per cent of Delhi's pollution," Mr Chadha said.
To check local sources of pollution, the Delhi Chief Minister and Aam Aadmi Party chief - who has been imposing the "odd-even" system of road rationing in the winter months since 2016 - today called for people to not keep their vehicle engines on at traffic stops.
"Let's all pledge to turn off our vehicles at red lights... In winters, polluted air settles close to ground. Every single effort will contribute in reducing pollution," he said in the backdrop of private vehicles crowding Delhi roads as public means of transportation function at half capacity due to the coronavirus pandemic.
A layer of smoky haze has hung over the National Capital Region since Monday, with the air quality index plunging to 304 in the "very poor" category on Tuesday for the first time since February this year.
The air quality has declined despite the state and central governments taking stricter anti-air pollution measures, including a ban on electricity generators, penalising violators at construction sites.