Months before the Delhi assembly elections, both the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government at the Centre and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP)-led state government are trying to take credit for the reduced air pollution levels in the national capital region. Delhi is expected to vote in February next year.
Union environment minister Prakash Javadekar on Monday said that the central government had taken a series of measures to tackle air pollution. “I think recognition of the existence of a problem is the beginning of a solution. To that end, the pollution problem of the national capital region started aggravating since 2006, but little was done until 2014. Prime Minister Narendra Modi took note of it and took up the challenge to address it," Javadekar told a press conference.
Last month, Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal had announced a seven-point winter action plan, including precautionary measures to tackle air pollution, such as the re-introduction of the odd-even car rule and distribution of masks.
Pollution levels are at its worst during the winter months, and stubble burning in neighbouring states, including Haryana, which goes to polls on 21 October, is a key cause for the spike in air pollution every November.
“In Haryana and Punjab, farmers have been using the process of burning stubble for years. The Centre has given 18,000 machines, which will ensure that farmers don’t need to burn stubble," Javadekar said.
The Union minister said 46 teams of the Central Pollution Control Board were visiting the national capital region on Monday to identify areas where pollution levels can spike.
Javadekar also said that an air quality index for India was started in 2014. “We are bringing BS-VI compliant vehicles from next year, which is a revolutionary step. We have created two bypasses, which have made it possible for 40,000 vehicles to avoid entering Delhi. E-mobility has been promoted always," he said.
On Monday, Kejriwal asked the transport department to send him its views on exemptions to be granted for segments such as two wheelers, women drivers, and CNG vehicles during the odd-even period during 4-15 November.