Neighbouring states to need to ban firecrackers to curb pollution on Diwali: Gopal Rai

Environment Minister Shri Gopal Rai on Thursday appealed to the Centre and the neighbouring states of Delhi to adopt more robust practices like Delhi to tackle air pollution. He asked the Centre and State Governments to convert public and commercial vehicles to CNG vehicles like Delhi to curb pollution in NCR and make all industrial units operating in NCR operate on PNG to control industrial pollution levels. He stressed that Centre & states need to work on war footing to implement the bio-decomposer solution, which the Kejriwal Government is spraying for free in Delhi. He said that Delhi’s efforts to curb pollution are meaningless without the support of neighbouring states. He said that pollution hotspots of UP, Haryana are far off from their state capitals and they should institute on-ground task forces to manage the situation better. He further stressed on the need to adopt Electric Vehicle Policy and Tree Transplantation Policy in other states along with campaigns to reduce vehicular pollution. 

Shri Gopal Rai said, “To tackle the problem of pollution in Delhi-NCR in the winters, the Union Environment Ministry organised an online meeting of Delhi, Haryana, Punjab, and Rajasthan governments. Along with the Union Environment Minister Bhupendra Yadav, MM Kutty, Chairman Commission for Air Quality Management joined the meeting. The Environment Ministers of Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Rajasthan and Chief Secretary of Punjab were present in the meeting. Today’s meeting focused on pollution which increases in the time of winters. Since Delhi, due to its geographical location, is the most affected out of all places, it was an important meeting for the people here.”

Shri Gopal Rai said, “More than the pollution contributing factors present in Delhi, the air quality drops and pollution increases because of the external factors which emerge from the surrounding states. For the past one week, we have been monitoring the air quality in Delhi. On 18th September, the reading of PM10 pollutants was 67 and that of PM2.5 was 27. On 19th September, it was 85 and 35 respectively, on 20th September, it was 78 and 31 respectively, on 21st September, it was 81 and 31 respectively and on 22nd September, it was 64 and 27 respectively. Last year, when I was monitoring everything from the War Room, I saw that the PM10 and PM2.5 graph was increasing. We specially monitored how Punjab and Haryana were contributing to the pollution of Delhi through stubble burning. As the quantum of stubble burning increased in these states, the air quality worsened in Delhi. In today’s meeting, we appealed to the central government and the government of the neighbouring states to eradicate the stubble burning practices as soon as possible. Every government should extensively use bio-decomposers which is an efficient and viable solution for stubble management. Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh governments informed in the meeting today that they were deciding on using bio-decomposers.” 

Shri Gopal Rai said, “It has also come to our knowledge that plans are being made to distribute only bio-decomposer capsules to the farmers. Merely distributing bio-decomposer capsules to the farmers won’t solve this problem. It would also not have been possible to control pollution in Delhi, had the government not taken this matter into its own hands. We have delegated responsibility to the Agriculture Department Officials to oversee the bio-decomposer capsules right from their manufacturing, development of the spray solution and the process of their use in the farms. Other state governments should also take responsibility and get this done under their strict watch as an emergency. As far as the cost of this process is concerned, around Rs. 1,000 per acre is what the Delhi government is spending. In the meeting, the Chief Minister of Haryana who is also their Environment Minister informed that the Haryana government is incentivizing the farmers who are not burning their stubbles with Rs. 1,000. Additionally, they have also sanctioned Rs. 200 crores to subsidise the farmers for purchasing machinery to manage stubble. Such large sums of money doesn’t need to be spent on this problem. If the Haryana government just uses those 1,000 rupees to treat the farms with bio-decomposers then stubble burning would be eradicated from Haryana. The governments need to spend only 1/4th of what they are spending at present to implement the bio-decomposer solution.”

He said, “If this work is not done then, this year, once again the problem of stubble burning will have to be borne by Delhi and North India. Therefore, in today’s meeting I have requested everyone to treat it as an emergency. Public Transport in Delhi runs on CNG. We have requested the Union Minister to ensure that all public transport in NCR be run on CNG so that we can curb vehicle pollution, without which Delhi’s efforts are meaningless. All industrial units in Delhi are operated on PNG. We appealed that industrial units operating in NCR also be operated on PNG so that increasing pollution can be reduced. This target has been given to other states as well, but due to loose monitoring and inefficient transferring of work between units, we have requested them to hurriedly work on this to curb industrial pollution.”

He continued, “Delhi has stopped using thermal power plants run on coal. However, in surrounding states neither are those being stopped or newer techniques being used. The states bypass our requests. All they do is pay the penalty each year and move on. This is not the solution. These are one of the greatest hazards to air pollution. We have raised the issue of brick kilns as well and Haryana has responded by saying that they are working on a zigzag technology, as well as Uttar Pradesh, as recommended by scientists. However, too few units are on zigzag technology. We raised this in the meeting.”

“In Delhi due to the 24 hour electricity access generator sets are not used much, but a new technology has been introduced in Delhi using which pollution emissions from gensets can be lowered. Last year when we entered severe conditions and the guidelines were to stop gensets, Haryana overlooked it as many colonies there were deprived of electricity supply. We have requested that emergency arrangements be made and in severe conditions preemptive arrangements be made starting from now itself. Alongside all this, Delhi has banned crackers, but the efficacy of this is uncertain as long as neighbouring states and surrounding areas don’t ban them as people will buy from other states. We have requested other states to ban crackers so we can all stop air pollution on Diwali,” he said.

He added, “UP is governed from Lucnkow but most of the dust and industrial pollution from UP comes from West UP to Delhi. Similarly, in Haryana the officials work in Chandigarh but pollution hotspots of the state are near Delhi. We have proposed the setting up of a task force to work on ground and take action in these hotspots. The dust pollution from construction work can be controlled this way. Three more proposals have been put forth: the Electric Vehicle Policy be adopted by surrounding states, on which the CAQM too has has written to everyone on it. Results of the EV Policy in Delhi have been positive. Secondly, the tree transplantation policy has been adapted which we have proposed in the meeting. Lastly, our ‘Red Light On Gaadi Off’ campaign that was implemented last year must be adopted by the neighbouring states.”

“All states put forth their views in the meeting. From Delhi’s sides we put forth these key points. I hope that the Central Government and CAQM work on this and follow up in a time bound way and the states participate as well, we will be successful in reducing pollution this year”, he concluded.

(EW Correspondent)