Winter in north India is often accompanied by a political hue and cry over air pollution. Northern India is one of the world’s most polluted regions, and Delhi, India’s capital, is among world’s most polluted cities. Year after year, Arvind Kejriwal, Delhi’s chief minister since 2015, has blamed the state governments of Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, and Haryana for the city’s pollution. However, this year, the Aam Aadmi Party chief is singing a different tune. The most likely reason: AAP now runs the state government of Punjab.
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The air quality in Delhi remained in the ‘severe’ category for the second day in a row, according to a forecasting agency on November 4. It also revealed that stubble-burning contributed 34% of the national capital’s PM 2.5 pollution. Crop burning incidents in 2021 and 2022 were roughly the same until October 25, when there was a divergence and more incidents recorded this year than the same date last year. According to data from the Consortium for Research on Agroecosystem Monitoring and Modelling from Space (CREAMS) Laboratory, Indian Agricultural Research Institute, there have been 21,480 instances recorded in Punjab this year, up from 18,066 last year.
Delhi LG wrote to Punjab CM about Delhi’s ‘health emergency’
The Lieutenant Governor (LG) of Delhi, VK Saxena, on November 4 wrote to Punjab Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann about the national capital’s “health emergency,” urging him to take immediate action to control stubble burning in his state. Mann, along with Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, held a press conference earlier on November 4, calling for a united front against air pollution. The Aam Aadmi Party chief, Arvind Kejriwal, accepted responsibility for the rise in farm fires and called for a collaborative effort “without pointing fingers.”
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According to the Punjab Chief Minister, stubble burning is on the rise because farm produce is at an all-time high. He also stated that his government is considering diversifying away from paddy next year as long as farmers receive Minimum Support Prices. According to the Ministry of Earth Sciences agency SAFAR, Stubble burning contributes 34% to Delhi’s pollution. This represents an increase from the 7% share at this time last year. According to the Indian Agricultural Research Institute, Punjab has seen a 20% increase in stubble-burning cases, while Haryana and Uttar Pradesh have seen a 30% decrease.
Kejriwal takes responsibility for increasing farm fires in Punjab
The Punjab government blames the Centre for not doing enough to reduce stubble burning. Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal said, “We take full responsibility for increasing farm fires in Punjab. It has been just six months since they formed a government in Punjab. We have taken steps to control it. Stubble burning will come down by next year.” The Convenor of the Aam Admi Party reiterated that the central government must develop a joint action plan to combat air pollution, and that now is not the time to point fingers.
AAP chief blamed Punjab government for Delhi’s poor air quality last year
However, last year, Arvind Kejriwal claimed that the increase in pollution was caused by stubble burning in neighbouring states, claiming that governments were “doing nothing” to assist farmers in stopping the practice. He urged the governments of Punjab, Haryana, and Uttar Pradesh to recognize their roles in reducing stubble burning and controlling pollution. During a press conference last year, in November, he said that farmers in neighbouring states were forced to burn stubble because their governments were doing nothing to help them (to stop stubble burning).