Do the people have the right to breathe fresh air? Centre reprimands Kejriwal government

Updated: Nov 5, 2016, 10.21 AM IST

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NEW DELHI: With the air in NCR rendered unbreathable, the Centre on Friday stepped into action, directing five states “to take immediate measures to control air pollution”.

The environment ministry on Friday called a meeting of environment ministers of Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Rajasthan and Punjab, asking them to immediately act against crop burning, close down polluting brick kilns, check fly ash from thermal plants and address the road dust problem effectively.

Conceding that the 42-point action plan announced last year was not adequately enforced, the Centre asked the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) to hold monthly reviews on action being taken to check air pollution. The environment ministry will step in to review it every quarter.

The National Green Tribunal, meanwhile, on Friday slammed the Delhi government for its lacklustre response towards tackling air pollution. “Have you done anything to prevent children from going to school, did you give advisory to public?” the tribunal observed.

“The people have the right to breathe fresh air,” it said while reprimanding the Kejriwal government.

The tribunal also summoned the environment secretaries of Punjab, Haryana, Delhi and Rajasthan over the increase in pollution in the region and asked them to submit a report on burning of agricultural residues and measures taken to curb pollution by November 8. The environment ministry, meanwhile, has outlined an immediate course of action:

STUBBLE CHECK
One of the key causes of air pollution in Delhi — smoke from crop burning in neighbouring states — still stays unaddressed. Environment ministry sources said there has been considerable crop burning in Punjab from last week of October right through the first week of November, pushing up pollution levels in Delhi-NCR. At the meeting presided over by Environment Minister Anil Dave, Punjab has assured that crop burning will be checked.

Governments of Punjab and Haryana have been advised to set up biomass power plants in large numbers and it was agreed at the meeting that states should ask major industries to use CSR funds to control stubble burning and procure farm machinery like happy seeders, rotavators, straw choppers etc.

Environmental clearance could also be linked to commitments towards utilising CSR funds to control stubble burning.

The Delhi government was also asked on Friday to examine the possibility of providing funds from the Environment Compensation Charge and diesel cess to the neighbouring states for incentivising various machinery like happy seeders, rotavators, straw choppers, gyro rakes, bailers, mulchers etc to minimise straw burning by farmers.

NO SMOKING

CPCB will develop an app immediately to report burning of garbage/biomass/dry leaves, including landfill fire. All state agencies and enforcement officers will be linked to the app.

The Delhi government has been asked to take a slew of decisions with immediate effect. The Kejriwal government will soon write to the National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC) to ensure that transportation of fly ash around Delhi — mainly from the Badarpur Thermal plant — is done in an environment-friendly manner.
There will also be a review of the pollution under control (PUC) checkpoints in Delhi to check vehicular pollution and the traffic police will be asked to ensure lane discipline, check against overloaded vehicles, visibly polluting vehicles and vehicles parked in nondesignated areas.

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