“Delhi has turned into a gas chamber,” Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal tweeted on Friday as the national capital’s air quality dropped to the ‘emergency’ category. Kejriwal has been making different versions of this statement for the past three years, and yet the pollution shows no signs of abating.
In 2017, he said that Delhi had become a gas chamber and “we have to find a solution to crop burning in adjoining states”.
A similar statement was said in 2016 when Kejriwal said that “pollution has increased to an extent that outdoors in Delhi are resembling a gas chamber.”
Since he has come to power, Kejriwal has been seen shifting blame to Punjab and Haryana since residue from crop burning is one of the major pollutants in Delhi’s air.
However, as we circle back to blaming Punjab and Haryana every year, there is no sign or efforts being taken through the year to fix the problem of air pollution that is a serious health hazard.
What’s changed this year?
Umm, seems like nothing. In his tweet on Friday, he blamed smoke from crop burning in neighbouring state. He also told school children that smoke emanating from stubble burning in Punjab and Haryana was causing air pollution and asked them to write letters to chief ministers of the two states urging them to control it.
“Please write letters to Captain uncle and Khattar uncle and say, ‘Please think about our health’,” he told children. He also distributed masks to school children.
Senior AAP leader Gopal Rai, along with other party members, protested outside the Punjab and Haryana Bhawan on Thursday.
The Delhi government is bringing back the odd-even scheme from 4 November as part of a plan to tackle air pollution. While this will be the third time that the odd-even scheme will be implemented in the city, studies have shown that this scheme has not been successful in curbing air pollution in the city.
A study published in Current Science in April 2018 had shown that the odd-even scheme implemented in January 2016 not only failed to reduce air pollution but likely increased vehicular emissions.
The Ministry of Earth Sciences’ air quality monitor, SAFAR, said on Thursday that an increase in stubble burning in Haryana and Punjab and calm surface winds have kept Delhi under a blanket of a smoky haze, according to PTI.
Punjab has recorded an increase of 7,842 fires — from 12,027 on 27 October to 19,869 on 30 October, according to data from Punjab and Central Pollution Control Boards. Haryana, meanwhile, has recorded an increase of 476 cases — from 3,735 on 27 October to 4,211 on 30 October.
On Thursday, the PTI report said, the smoke from crop residue burning accounted for 35% of Delhi’s PM2.5 pollution, the highest this season.
Stubble burning is indeed one of the major reasons for Delhi turning into a gas chamber, but Kejriwal seems to have known this for last three years.
Several Twitter users have also slammed Kejriwal for inaction and shifting blame:
A Supreme Court mandated panel on Friday declared a public health emergency in the Delhi-NCR region and banned construction activity till 5 November, PTI reported.
In an interview to Rohini Chatterji for Huffpost India in 2018, writer Siddharth Singh said “the reason this problem is so hard to solve is that there is not one entity to blame, and there is no one entity responsible more than others”.
“I think we need some way to bring all of these stakeholders together, which is not happening at the moment. We need institutional responses to air pollution, we need to sit together to evaluate the goals, ask if we have achieved those goals? We need to figure out who is the person involved who did not act, assign responsibility.”
(With PTI inputs)