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On Thursday, the Centre for Science and Environment, a Delhi-based think tank, said the national capital is facing the worst smog in 17 years. Photo:Mohd Zakir/Hindustan Times
On Thursday, the Centre for Science and Environment, a Delhi-based think tank, said the national capital is facing the worst smog in 17 years. Photo:Mohd Zakir/Hindustan Times

Environment secretary calls for stricter enforcement of anti-pollution measures

Secretary A.N. Jha met his counterparts from Delhi, Rajasthan, UP, Haryana and Punjab in the wake of 'severe' levels of PM10 and PM2.5 in the national capital

New Delhi: The Union environment secretary on Friday called for stricter enforcement of anti-pollution measures in states around Delhi, saying flawed implementation was hurting air quality in the capital.

Secretary A.N. Jha met his counterparts from the five states of Delhi, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Punjab to discuss issues including crop burning, dust pollution, landfill sites, building construction, and vehicular and industrial pollution.

The meeting came after the levels of particulate matter (PM) 10 and 2.5 reached “severe" levels on Monday—a day after Diwali—in Delhi and its satellite towns like Noida.

For instance, on Monday evening—a day after Diwali—the PM 10 level was eight times the safe limit while PM 2.5 level was nearly 10 times the safe norm.

As per the System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting and Research (SAFAR) of the Union ministry of earth sciences, on Friday, the level of PM 10 and PM 2.5 was recorded at 389µg/m³ (nearly four times the safe limit) and 225µg/m³ (nearly four times the safe limit).

Severe is a level that can cause respiratory problems in healthy people and seriously impact those with existing diseases.

Factors like stubble burning in northern Indian states is contributing more to pollution in Delhi, and not so much the bursting of Diwali fireworks.

On Thursday, the Centre for Science and Environment, a Delhi-based think tank, said the national capital is facing the worst smog in 17 years.

“All states have taken various steps. Last year in December CPCB (Central Pollution Control Board) had instructed states on 42 points. There were short, medium and long term measures in that. After issuing these orders, five or six meetings have already been held at the ministerial as well as CPCB level. Many steps have been taken," Jha said after Friday’s meeting of environment secretaries.

“There are many areas where much more needs to be done. Special focus needs to be given on enforcements of these orders. Because enforcement mechanism is still weak and states have been asked to make enforcement stricter and whatever steps which needs to be taken should be taken," he added.

After similar conditions last year in December, the then environment minister Praksah Javadekar had convened a meeting of the same stakeholders after which the CPCB had asked sates to undertake 42 short, medium and long term measures to control pollution.

Last December, the CPCB issued an order to the states to implement measures to control pollution by curbing crop burning, and open garbage burning. But their enforcement has been weak.

On a query regarding stubble burning in States neighbouring Delhi, Jha said it has been controlled to a large extent in most states except in Punjab where there have been instances of stubble burning on a large scale between the last few days of October and first few days of this month.

“However, the Punjab government has assured us that they will make all efforts to check them. There are certain medium and long term measures to wean away the farmers from burning the crop. We have taken them on board and we shall be pursuing them in terms of making funds available to them," he added.

The environment secretary also said that Delhi government has been asked to regulate and check the fly ash coming out of the Badarpur thermal power plant.

“CPCB chairman will review every month with states so that the air quality of the national capital improves," he said.

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