By Dr. Gyan Pathak
BJP-AAP, the political parties ruling the National Capital Territory of Delhi on different capacities, have touched new low in their slugfest while people are gasping to breathe clean air. Already toxic air quality became more hazardous in the morning today when the ‘very poor’ air quality turned ‘severe’. Children and elderly people found themselves struggling to breathe. A leading school had already closed, while the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights had asked the Delhi Government yesterday to consider closing the city schools till the situation improves.
Delhi’s air turns toxic in winter is a recurring phenomenon year after year, especially from mid-October to mid-November, and so the trading of charges between the AAP and the BJP. However, air quality remains toxic throughout the year, and the blame game continues non-stop. Since the BJP rules Delhi through Lieutenant Governor, and the elected AAP government rules under the LG, they have been trying to shift responsibility for deterioration of air pollution on each other, but not working together for appropriate solution. Delhi gets respite only when favourable meteorological conditions drive away some of the pollution.
On Thursday morning, a toxic haze was covering most part of the city and surrounding areas like NOIDA in Uttar Pradesh and Gurugram and Faridabad in Haryana. The government’s air quality monitors showed that concentration of PM2.5, which are dangerous tiny pollutants in the air, had crossed even 500 mark in many places. The average air quality index (AQI) in Delhi stood at 426, which is in the worst band of air quality ranging between 401 and 500. The 24 hour AQI stood at 376 on Wednesday, which was in ‘very poor’ quality range of 301-400, and was considered a little improvement compared to 424 on a day earlier on Tuesday, November 1, 2022, though it showed only the dangerous fluctuation level as a result of inaction on the part of the government and other polluting factors.
On the one hand AAP has blamed the BJP for it, and said that the federal government has rejected its solutions, and on the other the BJP leader and the Minister of Environment in the Modi government at the Centre has blamed the AAP for turning “Delhi into a gas chamber.”
Expressing serious concern over “sever” air quality and its impact on the health of children, the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) has asked the Delhi government yesterday to consider closing of schools “in view of the best interest of children” until the situation improves. The commission had also sought an action taken report on the matter within 24 hours, and detailed report in three days.
A leading private school, the Shri Ram School, has announced suspension of physical classes at its branches in Delhi and Haryana in view of the deterioration air quality. The school will be conducting online classes from tomorrow. Many schools are also likely to close the classes, since the stubble burning in Punjab, Haryana, and surrounding areas of Uttar Pradesh and vehicular emissions are likely to increase further. Moreover, the present meteorological conditions are also not favourable which is contributing to the pollution of the national capital and the surrounding areas. Medical experts say that prolonged exposure to toxic air, especially during the morning can lead to serious health problems, since PM2.5 are fine particles that are 2.5 microns or less in diameter and can travel deep into the respiratory tract, reaching the lungs and entering the bloodstreams.
According to the data from the Ministry of Earth Sciences, smoke from stubble burning by farmers contributed up to 32 per cent of the lungs damaging PM2.5 pollutants in Delhi’s air – which is highest in the past two years during the period between mid-October and early November. Moreover, the problem of stubble burning is not new. AAP had been blaming Punjab for stubble burning and criticising the state government for not taking action against farm fires. However, now AAP is the ruling party in Punjab. Then who is now to blame for continued stubble burning in that state which also affect Delhi? Delhi is also ruled by AAP and it cannot shift blame for burning waste here too.
Yesterday, Delhi government had issued an appeal to people in the city to work from home and carpool to reduce traffic fumes. It has also banned construction temporarily. Such cosmetic steps cannot veil the truth that the dip in air quality this week has been fuelled by an increase in stubble burning in Punjab, where APP government has miserably failed in stopping it. Farmers see these fires as a fast and cheap method of clearing fields to plat Rabi (winger) crops. On the other hand, the government failed to compensate them fairly for the expense of removing stubble from other means. The Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI) has reported over 3,600 incidents of stubble burning on Wednesday, which is the highest this year so far.
Minister of Environment in Modi government Bhupender Yadav has blamed AAP for not properly utilizing central funds allocated for machines to clear crop residue from the fields. He has even twitted, “There is no doubt over who has turned Delhi into a gas chamber.” However, AAP leader and Chief Minister of Delhi has said that their proposal to tackle the stubble burning has been rejected by the Centre. Kejriwal now tries to divert attention from Delhi and Punjab and says that the high pollution level was a problem for all northern Indian states. “Why is the PM not calling a meeting of all states on this?” he asks asserting, “There is only politics going on about this, no one is talking about the solution.”
True, there is only politics and blame game, and both the BJP and AAP are to blame for pollution in Delhi which underwent from bad to worse and now has turned into the worst category of pollution. They miserably failed in taking appropriate preventive measures against pollution making the Hell of the National Capital City. (IPA Service)