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Environment

'Take Full Responsibility': Punjab and Delhi CMs Vow to Reduce Stubble Burning by Next Year

Several in Delhi have been issuing calls to Union and state governments in Punjab and Delhi to help tackle the worsening air pollution situation in the NCT.

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New Delhi: In a press conference with Punjab chief minister Bhagwant Mann by his side, Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal said that the two governments “take full responsibility” for the increase in farm fires in Punjab – something which is believed to have contributed to Delhi’s hazardous air pollution situation.

Kejriwal announced that his government would be stopping primary school classes from Saturday onwards, closing outdoor sports activities for students in classes higher than 5 and considering implementing the odd-even scheme to minimise ill effects of pollution and tackle it.

The Wire has reported how with Delhi’s air quality remaining in the “severe” category, and meteorological conditions expected to deteriorate it further in the coming days, the Union government has imposed further restrictions through the implementation of the fourth stage of the Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP) to tackle the pollution.

On November 3, the Air Quality Index (AQI) for Delhi was in the 400s, which is when air quality affects healthy people and seriously impacts those with existing diseases. In the late evening, the AQI was 510. Many Delhi residents also complained of physical discomfort due to the poor air quality.

“Delhi’s 20 million residents were effectively breathing smoke on Thursday,” Reuters said in its report.

Several in Delhi have been issuing calls to Union and state governments to help tackle the situation.

The Supreme Court on Friday listed a plea seeking Punjab’s stubble burning be reduced for November 10.

Today’s presser is understood to be in response to persistent criticism faced by the Aam Aadmi Party governments in the two states.

“In Punjab, we got only 6 months. The first few months went into implementing law and order. Please give us one more year to solve this,” Kejriwal said, according to NDTV.

Mann took oath as Punjab chief minister on March 19.

“We have taken steps to control it. Stubble burning will come down by next year,” Kejriwal said today.

He said a joint meeting of chief ministers and expert opinion were both needed for solving the stubble burning problem.

As reported by The Wire, this is the time of the year when stubble burning – the practice of setting fire to the paddy straw left over after harvesting – enters its peak zone. Data compiled by the Indian Agricultural Research Institute said that Punjab reported 3,634 farm fires on November 2, the highest this year until then so far.

Mann said that the bumper paddy crop in Punjab has led to more burning this year and “promised” to find a solution by November next year.

“There are 1.20 lakh machines to bury stubble in fields in Punjab,” Mann said, adding that village panchayats had passed resolutions not to burn stubble.