Speaking on efforts and steps taken to control air pollution in the Delhi-NCR region, Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar said that "several initiatives were taken by the Centre." The Minister of Environment, Forest and Climate further said that the Centre has allocated a total of Rs 280 crore for awareness programs to curb air pollution in Delhi and NCR regions.
"We have undertaken several initiatives. A high level task force was constituted under the chairmanship of the Principal Secy to the PM. Regular review meetings have been held," said Javadekar.
The Environment minister said that a comprehensive air plan for Delhi-NCR has been developed by the Central government in which a source-based approach is adopted. The 'source' refers to the major causes of air pollution.The list of the main sources include industry, construction, vehicles, biomass and construction/demolition. Speaking in the Parliament's winter session Prakash Javadekar claimed that Delhi's air quality has improved compared to previous years There is a general improvement of AQI in Delhi in the last 3 years. There have only been190 out of 324 days bad air days this year, said the minister. Prakash Javadekar also spoke about the National Clean Air plan,a mid-term, five-year action plan with 2019 as the first year. The main aim of the program is 20-30% reduction of PM2.5 and PM10 concentration by 2024.
On the first day of the winter session of the parliament, BJP and Congress MPs had given a Zero Hour notice over the severe air pollution crisis in the national capital. The city has been witnessing alarming levels of pollution this season with air quality dipping to the 'very severe' category. Delhi's air quality fell on Thursday as the AQI reached up to 369 PM 2.5 units. The root cause of the poisonous smog has been attributed to stubble burning by farmers in neighboring states like Punjab and Haryana. On Thursday, a farmer was arrested and 15 others were fined for burning crop residue in their fields in Uttar Pradesh's Shamli district. Another sixteen farmers have been arrested for allegedly burning stubble in Uttar Pradesh's Mathura district, and fined Rs 13.05 lakh through tahsil.
Speaking about the measures taken against stubble burning, Prakash Javadekar said that Uttar Pradesh has recorded a reduction of 25 percent, Haryana a reduction of 20 percent and Punjab had a reduction of 16 percent in stubble burning incidents. He also spoke about crop residue management for stubble burning under which 50 thousand machines would be given by the Centre under 50-80% subsidy. These machines would help reduce the crop remains which would reduce the problem of stubble burning. On vehicle-based pollution, the environnment minister said, 'We will make them BS compliant.'
"We are now migrating to BS6 which will reduce vehicular pollution by 80 percent," said Javadekar.
On mesaures that the government is undertaking, the environment minister said, ''The centre is collaborating with IITs and was creating pilot research projects which would help them provide long-term solution.'' One of the collaborations is using wind augmentation for pollution abetment in heavy traffic belts like the ITO. He said such projects were producing mixed results.
Response by Opposition
Soon after Javadekar's speech in the parliament, Congress leader Kumari Selja said that due to air pollution the average life expectancy was shortened. "Six lakh children under 15 die every year due to air pollution," the Congress leader claimed. Contradicting his own party, BJP MP Vijay Goel said that the air quality index was recorded at 370 on Thursday. He also said that the number of lung cancer patients has gone up by 10 percent, according to Ganga Ram Hospital research.