Sunil Bharala, a cabinet minister in Uttar Pradesh's nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government has come up with a bizarre suggestion to improve air quality. He claimed that farmers have always practiced stubble burning and that this is a “natural system”.
“Blaming stubble is nothing but an attack on farmers. The practice of burning stubble has been existing for long. If you burn the stubble, some smoke is generated, which does not cause pollution. It is a natural system followed by farmers. Instead of kicking off a controversy over it, we should go back to our tradition of holding 'Yagya' or oblation. The government should also conduct 'Yagya' to please Lord Indra, for rain, which would solve all these problems,” said Bharala.
His comments come as political mudslinging has begun between states adjacent to the national capital New Delhi, the state government of Delhi and the federal ministry of environment and forests as to who is responsible for the worsening air quality situation in the national capital.
The air quality in New Delhi, meanwhile, worsened again on Sunday evening, according to SAFAR-India Air Quality Service provided by the federal Ministry of Earth Sciences.
The Air Quality Index measures the concentration of tiny particles that are less than 2.5 microns in diameter and can be carried deep into the lungs, causing deadly diseases including cancer and cardiac problems.
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal has, for instance, described the city as a “gas chamber" and claimed that people in Delhi were suffering through no fault of their own.
Pollution has reached unbearable levels across N India. Del govt taken many steps. Delhiites hv made many sacrifices. Del suffering for no fault of theirs. Punjab CM also expressd concern. Centre shud take immediate steps 2 provide relief. V will support Centre in all initiatives https://t.co/Vx85xYlDId— Arvind Kejriwal (@ArvindKejriwal) November 3, 2019
On Friday, a statutory panel set up by the Supreme Court of India declared a 'Health Emergency' in Delhi due to poor air quality. In a letter to the chief secretaries of Delhi, Haryana, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh, the Chairman of Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority (EPCA) Bure Lal said:
“The air quality in Delhi and NCR deteriorated further last night and is now at the severe plus level. We have to take this as a public health emergency as it will have adverse impacts on everyone, particularly our children.”
The EPCA has directed that all coal and other fuel-based industries should be closed in Delhi and its satellite regions until 5 November. However, this directive would not be applicable to industries operating on piped natural gas. All schools have also been closed until 5 November.
The Delhi government has announced a Graded Response Action Plan, which includes road rationing for 15 days from 4 November and a ban on trucks and construction activities. The state government has also provided tens of thousands of masks to students of state-run and private schools to protect them from toxic air.