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Minister says Delhi air better, MPs back stand of farmers

Members of Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha on Thursday raised the issue of high pollution levels in the Delhi-National Capital Region and said farmers alone should not be held responsible for the situation.

Members cutting across party lines said that stubble burning alone cannot be blamed for rising levels of air pollution in and around Delhi and urged the government to provide incentives to farmers so that they dispose of stubble in a more scientific manner.

Underlining steps taken by the centre to check pollution, Union Minister of Environment Prakash Javadekar said that national capital’s air quality has improved in the last three years and the number of ‘good’ and ‘moderate’ days has increased. He also said that there has been an overall improvement in the air quality of Delhi in 2019 (from January-November 19) successively from 2016.

The numbers of ‘good’, ‘satisfactory’ and ‘moderate’ days has increased to 159 in 2018 as compared to 152 in 2017 and 106 in 2016, while the number of ‘poor’, ‘very poor’ and ‘severe’ days has reduced to 206 in 2018 compared to 213 in 2017 and 246 in 2016.

“In Delhi, reduction in PM 2.5 levels in 2018 is 7.3 per cent over 2017 and 14.8 per cent over 2016. In Delhi, reduction in PM10 levels in 2018 is 8.6 per cent over 2017 and 16.5 per cent over 2016,” Javadekar said.

Informing the House about the step taken by the government to tackle the issues, Javadekar said a high-level task force has been set up under the chairmanship of the principal secretary to the prime minister in November, 2017, which is closely monitoring the implementation of measures related to management of air pollution in Delhi and NCR. A comprehensive Air Plan for the national capital region has been developed identifying the timeline and a source-based approach has been adopted to control air pollution.

The environment ministry also launched the National Clean Air Programme (NCAP) in January to tackle the problem of air pollution in a comprehensive manner with targets to achieve 20 to 30 per cent reduction in PM 10 and PM 2.5 concentration. This would be achieved by 2024 keeping 2017 as the base year. Moreover, over the vehicular emissions, BS VI emission norms would be applicable in the country from April 1, 2020, and this would led to 80 per cent reduction in particulate matter emissions.

The government has also taken initiatives for stringent emission norms for coal-based thermal plants and has closed Badarpur Thermal power plant from October 15, 2018.

In order to prevent stubble burning, a new central sector scheme on promotion of agricultural mechanisation for in-situ management of crop residue in the states of Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Delhi is being implemented. Members from the BJP and the opposition led by the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and supported by Congress, Samajwadi Party (SP) and others were involved in heated exchanges over the rising pollution levels in the city.

After Prakash Javadekar informed the House about the steps taken by the Centre on the issue, BJP member Vijay Goel alleged that the Delhi government is not taking proper action to tackle pollution. Countering Goel, AAP MP Sanjay Singh alleged that Centre is doing politics only and mocking over Kejriwal’s health. During debate, Samajwadi party MP Jaya Bachhan took a dig over low attendance in the house during the debate on such an important issue.


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