AAP government at receiving end, panellists feel that parties should rise above petty politics and take proactive measures to curb the menace
New Delhi’s air quality deteriorated on Monday morning, with poor visibility leading to cancellation of eight trains. The capital witnessed a thick cloud of toxic smog that was 10 times the recommended limit, as government officials struggled to tackle the public health crisis for the second week. Delhi’s air quality index on Monday was 468. The capital saw the season’s worst air quality at 486 on November 9. The pollution crisis and politics around it were discussed at APN’s popular debate Mudda. Participants included Ashok Goyal of the BJP, Kamlendra Singh of AAP, Harvinder Bhatti and Neeraj Bhatnagar from the city parents association, Dr Dhruv Sen Singh, environmentalist, Dr AK Singh, medical expert, Sanjay Upadhyay, Supreme Court advocate, and Govind Pant Raju, consutant, APN.
Bhatti said that an urgent probe is needed into this matter. Bhatnagar said that ASEAN is meeting at Manila, which was at one time one of the most polluted cities in the world, but the situation there is a lot better now. The Supreme Court gives out the orders, but these are never followed.The problem is one of implementing SC orders, he said.
Govind Pant Raju said that 44 times the Supreme Court, High Courts and the National Green Tribunal (NGT) have ordered the Delhi government to curb the menace. “Of course, a long-term solution needs to be addressed. Last month, UP, Rajasthan and Haryana met and talked about this issue. They decided that they needed Rs 3,000 crore to give to the farmers but the centre said it was too high, and would set off a trend of sorts. At least half of the desired funds could have been allocated,” he added.
Kamlendra Singh of AAP said that Art of Living’s Sri Sri Ravi Shanker was allowed to have his show on the Yamuna riverbed but the state government has not been allowed helicopters to facilitate artificial rain. Parties need to rise above politics, he said.
Bhatnagar said: “At the time of coming to power, the Delhi government had a 16-point programme to arrest pollution. Where is that? How much work has been done on that?”
Singh said that the L-G had not moved the file pertaining to vaccum cleaners in Delhi to clean the roads.
Goyal said the AAP is to blame. In the last three years, the Delhi government has not added a single DTC bus despite the fact that more buses are required. The centre has a graded action plan to curb pollution. Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal should have spoken to the centre, he said.
Upadhyay said that the courts have been passing orders but impletmentation of court orders has been tardy.
Dr Dhruv Sen Singh said that problem of pollution is not new. However, earlier there was enough grreen cover that arrested the menace in a big way. Today, it has become an emergency situation due to decreasing green cover and increasing construction and industrial activity. PM10 is 298 in Delhi, it should be 100, so one can imagine how grave the situation is, he said. He added that sprinkling of artificial rain is only a temporary measure. Pollution should be checked to bring the dust particles down, he added.
After the break, there was a clip that showed the APN reporter talking to the Union Environment Minister, Dr Harshvardhan, who said that pollution levels are getting better, and the situation in Delhi is because of the Delhi government’s slow response to the menace.
Bhatti disgreed that the condition is better. Bhatnagar added that the situation is so grim because no politicial party has air quality in its manifesto. “Air pollution is not a subject that will fetch votes, which is why political leaders ignore it,” he said.
Goyal said that the centre can only advise the government, and the Delhi government is not serious in its efforts to check pollution. The centre can only play an advisory role, he added.
Upadhyay said that the issue involves stubble burning, burning of landfills, construction menace, vehicular pollution and so on. The governments at the state level and the centre should together chalk out a plan to curb the menace, he said. Raju wanted to know what the government had done to check pollution arising out of construction activities.
Dr AK Singh pointed out that the alarming levels of pollution can worsen the health of chronic asthamatic patients, and trigger heart disease, affect the brain, and cause throat and nasal problems.
Bhatnagar pointed out that people, at their own level, are doing their bit as was evident during Diwali when most people adhered to the cracker ban.
Dr Singh said that some countries have smog diffusers, and such things should be implemented in future. Raju rounded up the debate by saying that time has come for governments to take the people’s perspective into account and not just the vote banks’.
Compiled by Niti Singh Bhandari