It’s politics as usual even as Delhi again turns into a deadly gas chamber
Delhi’s air turning particularly toxic in winter is a recurring phenomenon year after year, and so is the trading of charges between the AAP and the BJP
The slugfest between the BJP and the AAP, ruling the National Capital Territory of Delhi at different levels of governance, has touched a new low even as people gasp to breathe clean air. The toxic air quality has turned ‘severe’, with children and elderly people falling ill from respiratory disorders.
A leading school had already closed, while the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights asked the Delhi government to consider closing the city’s schools till the situation improves.
Delhi’s air turning particularly toxic in winter is a recurring phenomenon year after year, especially from mid-October to mid-November, and so is the trading of charges between the AAP and the BJP.
Since the BJP rules Delhi through the Lieutenant Governor, and the elected AAP government functions under the LG, they have been trying to shift responsibility for the air pollution on each other, rather than working together for an appropriate solution.
Delhi gets some respite only when favourable meteorological conditions drive away some of the pollution.
On Thursday morning, a toxic haze was covering most parts 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 the concentration of PM2.5, the dangerous tiny pollutants in the air, had crossed the 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 a little better compared to 424 on a day earlier on Tuesday, November 1, 2022.
The AAP blamed the BJP for it, claiming that the federal government had rejected its solutions, while the Minister of Environment in the Modi government at the Centre blamed the AAP for turning Delhi into a ‘gas chamber’.
Expressing serious concern over the ‘severe’ air quality and its impact on the health of children, the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) asked the Delhi government yesterday to consider closing of schools “in view of the best interest of children” until the situation improves. The commission also sought an action taken report on the matter within 24 hours, and a 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. Many other 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.
Medical experts say that prolonged exposure to toxic air, especially during the morning, can lead to serious health problems, since PM2.5 particles can travel deep into the respiratory tract, reaching the lungs and entering the bloodstreams.
According to data from the Ministry of Earth Sciences, smoke from stubble burning by farmers contributed up to 32 per cent of the 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 affects Delhi?
Delhi government has 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 the AAP government has miserably failed in stopping it.
Farmers see these fires as a fast and cheap method of clearing fields to plant Rabi crops.
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.
Views are personal