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"I appeal to the Punjab and Haryana governments with folded hands on behalf of the residents of Delhi to take strong steps and prevent Delhi from becoming a gas chamber," Arvind Kejriwal tweeted. "At our level, we are making all possible efforts and will continue to do so," his tweet in Hindi read.
The effective stubble fire counts in Haryana and Punjab have increased from 1,654 to 2,577 in the past 24 hours, "which is a matter of extreme concern for the residents of Delhi," the Delhi government said no Tuesday, quoting figures from SAFAR, the air quality monitor of the Ministry of Earth Sciences.
SAFAR has predicted that the share of smoke from stubble burning in Delhi's PM (particulate matter) 2.5 concentration is likely to jump to 29 per cent on Wednesday. On Monday, it was 25 per cent. The levels of PM 2.5 - tiny particulate matter less than 2.5 microns that can enter deep into the lungs - reached 740 in Delhi University, 12 times higher than the acceptable levels.
The number of farm fires has surged despite the Central government's directions to Punjab and Haryana last week to stop stubble burning completely.
State governments have been providing 50-80 per cent subsidy to farmers and cooperative societies to buy modern farm equipment to manage paddy straw. Challans are also issued to farmers found burning crop residue under a 2015 order of the National Green Tribunal. But the Punjab and Haryana High Court's order of September 19, staying the recovery of fine from farmers, has made challans virtually toothless.
On Tuesday evening, the overall air quality index in Delhi was 414. Twenty-six of the 37 air quality monitoring stations recorded AQIs (Air Quality Index) in the "severe" category, said the Central Pollution Control Board. Pollution levels in the satellite towns of Ghaziabad were 465, Greater Noida 440, and Noida 450.
An AQI between 0-50 is considered "good", 51-100 "satisfactory", 101-200 "moderate", 201-300 "poor", 301-400 "very poor", and 401-500 "severe". Above 500 is "severe-plus emergency" category.
AAP leader Atishi said the Delhi government and its agencies have worked relentlessly to bring down the pollution levels in Delhi. "From next week, the Delhi government will distribute free masks through schools and mohalla clinics and the odd-even scheme will also come into effect," she said.
Ahead of Diwali, the Arvind Kejriwal government had organised a mega laser show in Connaught Place, the heart of the city, to provide an alternative mode of celebration. The Supreme Court too, had given a set of orders that were expected to help bring down the spike in pollution during Diwali.
But on Diwali night, a large number of revellers flouted the Supreme Court's two-hour limit for bursting crackers. Many also used illegal crackers, instead of the green crackers ordered by the court. The green firecrackers cause 30 per cent less pollution.