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A coordinated effort to tackle the severe air pollution in the national capital was underway on Monday with the governments at the centre and five states, including Delhi, meeting to decide on anti-pollution measures.

Urging them to steer clear of the blame game, Union environment minister Anil Madhav Dave asked state governments to do their bit to control air pollution in Delhi.

Delhi’s environment minister Imran Hussain requested Dave to ask the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), the apex pollution watchdog, to conduct a large-scale apportionment study for the national capital region (NCR) to design targeted anti-air pollution measures.

Delhi has been suffering from “severe" air quality since 30 October with the city coming under a thick blanket of smog. Severe is the level that can cause respiratory problems in healthy people and seriously impact those with existing diseases.

After a public outcry, Union environment secretary A.N. Jha met with environment secretaries of five states—Delhi, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Punjab—on Friday. It was followed by Dave meeting the environment ministers on Monday.

“Everyone knows the reasons for high pollution in Delhi. We discussed the reasons and we will meet again in January," said Dave, adding that the environment secretary will track what the states are doing on a weekly basis.

Dave said the five states should avoid the blame game and work together.

“Eighty per cent of Delhi’s pollution is due to reasons within it while 20% is due to crop burning. Till the time the state governments don’t take steps on emergency basis, pollution will only increase. Everyone should do the work required," he said.

Dave said that states will have to work on tackling pollution for 365 days rather than leaving it as seasonal work. “We are going to soon issue an environment calendar specifying what every state needs to do every month to control pollution," Dave said.

Meanwhile, Hussain on Monday sent a letter to Dave saying satellite images have shown large-scale crop burning and pollution from industries in Punjab and Haryana.

“In this scenario, it is imperative that the source of emissions and their respective pollutant load contribution is investigated for the entire NCR. I request you to instruct the CPCB to conduct the large-scale source apportionment study for the NCR in order for targeted and comprehensive anti-air pollution measures to be designed and executed by the different states in the region and also to ensure accountability of various governments and streamline measures to combat air pollution in the national capital," Hussain said in his letter.

As per the System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting and Research (SAFAR) of the Union ministry of earth sciences, the air quality of Delhi on Monday was “severe", with levels of particulate matter PM10 more than eight times the safe limit and PM2.5 more than 10 times the safe limit. Particulate matters are key pollutants that can cause damage to lungs.

Meanwhile, the Supreme Court agreed to hear a plea by the Environment Pollution Control Authority (EPCA) on Tuesday seeking the court’s intervention in monitoring air pollution in Delhi.

A bench led by chief justice T.S. Thakur agreed to hear the case on Tuesday. “We’ve already passed orders. They need to be implemented," the chief justice said.

The national green tribunal lashed out at the Delhi government asking it to take immediate steps and came down heavily on Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan over crop burning, urging them to take strict action against violators.

Delhi cabinet minister Kapil Mishra on Monday, in an online appeal also invited suggestions from people on ways to tackle the rising air pollution in the city-state. The minister said that they received 5,000 responses in one hour.

On Sunday, after an emergency cabinet meeting, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal announced a string of emergency measures, including the closure of schools and a ban on construction activity.

The chief minister also asked people to work from home if possible and avoid going out. Other emergency measures include a ban on the use of generators, and burning leaves and a 10-day shutdown of a thermal power plant in Badarpur on the outskirts of Delhi.

PTI contributed to this story. 

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