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Delhi Facing Worst Smog in Past 17 Years, says Centre for Science and Environment

Many schools across the city have either shut down or ended all outdoor activities

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FILE - A man covers his face as he rides in front of the landmark India Gate, enveloped by smoke and smog, in New Delhi, India, Oct. 31, 2016. As Indians wake to smoke-filled skies from a weekend of festival fireworks for the Hindu holiday of Diwali, New Delhi's worst season for air pollution begins, with dire consequences. VOA
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New Delhi, November 5, 2016: Even for a city considered one of the world’s most polluted, the Indian capital hit a new low this week.

Air so dirty you can taste and smell it; a gray haze that makes a gentle stroll a serious health hazard.

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According to one advocacy group, government data shows that the smog that enveloped the city midweek was the worst in the last 17 years. The concentration of PM2.5, tiny particulate pollution that can clog lungs, averaged close to 700 micrograms per cubic meter. That’s 12 times the government norm and a whopping 70 times the WHO standards.

The Delhi winter, once a glorious time of clear, crisp days that meant holidays and weekends spent picnicking in its many public parks, is now a time of annual health woes.

As millions struggle with hacking coughs and burning eyes, many schools across the city have either shut down or ended all outdoor activities. Doctors have asked people to stay indoors during the worst days.

An Indian woman looks for air pollution mask inside a shop in New Delhi, India, Nov. 4, 2016. A new report from UNICEF says about a third of the 2 billion children in the world who are breathing toxic air live in northern India and neighboring countries. VOA
An Indian woman looks for air pollution mask inside a shop in New Delhi, India, Nov. 4, 2016. A new report from UNICEF says about a third of the 2 billion children in the world who are breathing toxic air live in northern India and neighboring countries. VOA

Yet many of the problems that turn Delhi’s air so toxic continue unabated. People still set off massive amounts of festival fireworks, piles of garbage burn all night and dust from the construction projects that dot the city is unchecked.

And at the start of every winter, farmers in the states bordering the city begin burning straw from their rice paddy crop to clear the fields for planting wheat.

“Sources of pollution in Delhi and outside of Delhi have exponentially increased in the last couple of days,” said Polash Mukerjee, a research associate with the Centre for Science and Environment, a Delhi-based research and lobbying organization.

He said that wind direction is blowing toward Delhi from all directions, especially from Punjab and Haryana, “where there are large incidences of crop fires that we are detecting even today.”

Limits on trucks

Over the last two years, the government has tried a slew of measures to control air pollution, including stricter emission norms for cars and a tax on diesel-fueled trucks that enter the city.

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New Delhi also has attempted to limit the number of cars during the winter months, when air quality is at its worst. Twice the city imposed a two-week period in which cars were allowed on the roads only on even or odd days, depending on the vehicle’s license plate number.

Last month, the city launched a smartphone application called “Change the Air,’’ inviting residents to send photos and complaints about sources of pollution, from the burning of leaves and garbage in public parks to construction crews working without dust control measures.

But despite announcing new measures, the city has struggled with enforcing them on a regular basis.

Regulations unenforced

One of the biggest struggles is crop burning in neighboring areas, where despite attempting to enforce cash fines on farmers enforcement has been hard. For the farmers, it’s cheaper to burn rice paddy straw than hire people to carry it away.

“Pollution is also caused by diesel cars, factories, and many other sources. Farmers only do this for one month of the year,” said Bijendar Singh, a farmer in neighboring Haryana state, as he watched his paddy straw burn.

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“It is a compulsion for farmers to do this. Because of this compulsion, we spread air pollution. As much as it harms the people sitting in Delhi, it harms us and our children even more,” he said.

CSE’s Mukerjee said that the government hasn’t worked out a strategy to help farmers dispose of their crop waste.
“Paddy straw that lies in your field today, as a farmer, it is absolutely worthless to me. I don’t earn anything out of it. Why should I spend money collecting it?” Mukherjee asked. (VOA)

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Kejriwal exposed as a liar: BJP leader

He also accused Kejriwal of hatching a conspiracy to mislead people by playing the emotional card of apology

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Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal, VOA
  • Arvind Kejriwal apologised to Bikram Singh Majithia
  • BJP leader says that this apology established himself
  • BJP also alleged that Kejriwal did nothing while state aced so many problems

A day after Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal apologised to former Punjab Minister Bikram Singh Majithia for alleging that he was involved in the drug trade, the BJP Delhi unit on Friday said he has exposed himself as a “liar”.

The BJP also alleged that he was doing nothing even while the people of the national capital were facing a number of issues due to sealing.

Arvind Kejriwal apologized to Bikram Singh Majithia. IANS

Addressing a press conference here, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Delhi unit President Manoj Tiwari said: ” What we have been saying for long has been proved today. He is a liar. He has apologised to Majithia for making false allegations against him.”

“He is on his way to apologise to (Union Finance Minister) Arun Jaitley ji and (Union Transport Minister) Nitin Gadkari ji for making false allegations,” the BJP leader said. Kejriwal is facing defamation cases in court for levelling allegations against Jaitley and Gadkari.

Also Read: BJP Protests Outside Sisodia’s Residence, Demands Kejriwal’s Resignation

The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) chief on Thursday apologised to the Shiromani Akali Dal leader in Punjab for making allegations of involvement in the drug trade, following which the latter said that he will withdraw a defamation suit filed in an Amristar court.

Tiwari, who represents the northeast Delhi constituency in the Lok Sabha, accused Kejriwal of misleading the people over the ongoing sealing drive in the national capital.

BJP MLA Vijender Gupta accused the AAP chief of only rendering “lip service” on the sealing drive and urged the Chief Minister to hold an all-party meeting with the Supreme Court-appointed Monitoring committee overseeing the drive.

“Since December last, Kejriwal is only doing lip service on the issue of sealing drive. He has done nothing to stop it,” Gupta, the Leader of Opposition in the Delhi Assembly, said.

He said that though Lt Governor Anil Baijal cleared the file for notifying 351 roads in the capital on February 8, the matter is still pending. “Why hasn’t he (Kejriwal) notified the 351 roads in the last 45 days?” Gupta asked.

BJP leaders are calling this apology a gimmick.

He also accused Kejriwal of hatching a conspiracy to mislead people by playing the emotional card of apology. Gupta warned the Monitoring Committee members not to act outside the law and said: “If the monitoring committee acts against law, then the BJP will oppose it.”

“We are going to inform the three municipal corporations of Delhi not to follow the commands of the Monitoring Committee if it goes against the law,” he said. “The MCDs should approach the court and also make Kejriwal a party,” the BJP leader added. IANS