- Arvind Kejriwal today described the national capital as a "gas chamber"
- He blamed stubble burning in Haryana and Punjab for pollution in Delhi
- The Delhi government has purchased 50 lakh masks for distribution
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, who is struggling to deal with rising air pollution levels in the national capital, today described the city as a "gas chamber" while distributing breathing masks to school children. In strongly-worded posts on social media, Mr Kejriwal also blamed the governments of neighbouring states - Haryana and Punjab - for "forcing farmers to burn stubble" that he said had led to the problem in Delhi.
The Chief Minister also urged school students to write to "Captain uncle and Khattar uncle", referring to Captain Amarinder Singh and Manohar Lal Khattar, Chief Ministers of Punjab and Haryana, respectively. "Please write letters to Captain uncle and Khattar uncle and say, 'Please think about our health'," Mr Kejriwal told children today, while distributing breathing masks.
"Delhi has turned into a gas chamber due to smoke from crop burning in neighbouring states. It is very important that we protect ourselves from this toxic air. Through pvt & govt schools, we have started distributing 50 lakh masks today. I urge all Delhiites to use them whenever needed," Mr Kejriwal wrote on Twitter.
The Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority (EPCA), has declared a public health emergency in the Delhi-NCR region, after pollution levels entered "severe plus" or "emergency" category late on Thursday night, the first time since January.
The Delhi government has directed that all schools in the city will remain closed till November 5. Construction activity has also been banned, as has the bursting of firecrackers during winter.
Delhi has turned into a gas chamber due to smoke from crop burning in neighbouring states— Arvind Kejriwal (@ArvindKejriwal) November 1, 2019
It is very imp that we protect ourselves from this toxic air. Through pvt & govt schools, we have started distributing 50 lakh masks today
I urge all Delhiites to use them whenever needed pic.twitter.com/MYwRz9euaq
"The Khattar and Captain governments are forcing farmers to burn stubble, which is causing severe pollution in Delhi. Yesterday, people protested at Punjab and Haryana Bhavan and expressed their anger against governments there," he added in Hindi.
"People are facing difficulty in breathing and to provide relief, we're distributing 2 masks to each student in private & govt schools," the AAP chief said.
On Tuesday Mr Kejriwal had appealed "with folded hands" to Punjab and Haryana to take concrete steps against stubble burning.
Delhi CM: Pollution level has deteriorated in Delhi due to smoke from stubble burning in adjoining states, whose number has doubled this year. People are facing difficulty in breathing, & to provide relief, we're distributing 2 masks to each student in private & govt schools. https://t.co/A5Em3t0vd2pic.twitter.com/zXEqQoWZvU— ANI (@ANI) November 1, 2019
Air quality in Delhi has plummeted post-Diwali, which Chief Minister Kejriwal said was the "lowest in five years". According to the System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting and Research (SAFAR), the Air Quality Index (AQI) recorded 412 this morning, which falls in the "very severe" category.
According to the data, the contribution of stubble burning to the haze and air pollution in Delhi-NCR was 35 per cent on Wednesday, 24 per cent on Thursday and is likely to be 25 per cent today. In addition, according to SAFAR data available on Wednesday, the number of stubble burning fires had doubled over the past 48 hours - from 1,200 to 2,700.
"Smoke from crop fires have affected us earlier this time... we can't help crop fires from neighbouring areas. (We have) adequate quantity of masks... we shall begin distributing them. We are working hard to curb pollution," Mr Kejriwal told reporters on Wednesday.
On the same day Captain Amarinder Singh, the Chief Minister of Punjab, hit back at the "brazen lies" of Mr Kejriwal and his Aam Aadmi Party (AAP).
Describing Mr Kejriwal as a "liar", the Punjab Chief Minister accused him of resorting to "political gimmickry" after failing to address the pollution problem in Delhi over the past five years.
For its part, the centre has provided between 50 and 80 per cent subsidy to farmers to purchase essential technology and machinery to help convert waste agricultural matter like straw into fertiliser instead of burning it and adding to the pollution.
However, farmers say that despite the subsidies the machinery is very expensive.
"It our compulsion to burn the stubble in our field (since) the machinery provided by the government is very expensive and we cannot afford it," Harjit Singh, a farmer in Punjab, told NDTV.
Experts say stubble burning is one of the biggest reasons for the haze that has enveloped Delhi in the past week.
With input from ANI, PTI
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)