NEW DELHI: As Delhi's air quality plunged into the "very poor" category on Sunday morning, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said that increase in pollution was due to stubble burning in neighbouring states as governments were "doing nothing" to help farmers to stop it.
He appealed to the governments of Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh to understand their responsibilities towards reducing stubble burning and controlling pollution.
"For the past one month, I have been tweeting data of air quality in Delhi. Pollution has increased in the last 3-4 days and it is due to stubble burning in neighbouring states. Farmers in neighbouring states are compelled to burn stubble as their governments are doing nothing for them (towards stopping stubble burning)," Kejriwal said in an event organised to lay the foundation stone of a 1,430 bed new government hospital in Shalimar Bagh.
Later in a statement, the government said that "Red Light On, Gadi Off" campaign will begin in the city from Monday for one month.
The chief minister said the national capital has two kinds pollution, one is its internal pollution that emanates from vehicles, dust, while the other one is because of stubble burning in neighbouring states of Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh.
Kejriwal said the Delhi government is doing every bit from anti-dust campaign to spraying of bio-decomposer liquid in fields to controlling inbound pollution, but the neighbouring states were yet to act.
"To stop stubble burning in Delhi, we sprayed bio-decomposer solution in fields. Farmers don't need to burn stubble after spraying it. Why can't state governments of Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh spray this liquid?" Kejriwal asked.
"I request governments of neighbouring states to understand their responsibilities (towards stopping stubble burning) and help their farmers responsibly," he said.
At 2 pm on Sunday, the AQI in Delhi was 339, which is in the "very poor" category.
An AQI between zero and 50 is considered good, 51 and 100 satisfactory, 101 and 200 moderate, 201 and 300 poor, 301 and 400 very poor, and 401 and 500 severe.
Earlier in the day, Delhi Environment Minister Gopal Rai also reiterated similar concerns and said that air quality in the city was deteriorating because of increasing incidents of stubble burning in neighbouring states.
He also appealed for a responsible approach from governments of these states.
Rai said that it was a normal trend that as the incidents of stubble burning in Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh increase, the air quality starts deteriorating in the city.
He said that the AQI was 171 on October 13 but as the incidents of stubble burning increased in neighbouring states, the AQI started getting worse and it was 284 on Sunday.
According to NASA pictures, the number of stubble burning incidents that day was low but within the last three days, incidents of stubble burning have increased with great speed in Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, he said.
"This has been a normal trend. We have appealed to neighbouring states to control incidents of stubble burning but to no avail. We have started spraying of bio-decomposer in fields as an alternative to stubble burning the similar should be done by neighbouring states.
"We need a responsible approach from (neighbouring) states in reducing the number of stubble burning. They should make arrangements to spray bio-decomposer in their states so that pollution can be controlled," Rai said.
He said that the central government has given about Rs 250 crore to Punjab for the stubble management, with which bio-decomposer can be sprayed free of cost in 50 lakh acres of land.
Rai said that to control the city's internal pollution, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government was taking a number of measures, including spraying of a bio-decomposer solution in fields and also cracking down on violators.
"We have started anti-dust campaign and are taking action against violators. From Monday, we will also launch 'Red Light On, Gadi Off' campaign to reduce vehicular pollution.
"As a long term solution, we are promoting electric vehicle policy and working of tree plantation issues. We have also shut coal operating Badarpur plan to reduce pollution," the environment minister said.
He also said that awareness campaigns such as appealing to public to stop use of private vehicle at least for one day are also being started.
Later in a statement, Rai said that wherever there are mountains of garbage, excavation work is being done on a permanent basis, which is causing dust pollution.
"We will not hesitate in taking even the toughest step if required. Will take every step that is needed to reduce pollution in Delhi," he added.