New Delhi: Concerned that measures taken by the Centre and Delhi government are inadequate to curb the unprecedented level of air pollution that the national capital is witnessing, members of Parliamentary panel on urban development Friday pressed for stronger action, including levying hefty fines on polluters, ThePrint has learnt.
The meeting comes at a time Delhi and its surrounding areas are experiencing worsening air quality index every passing day.
The deteriorating air quality forced the Centre last month to set up a permanent commission to monitor the pollution level in Delhi and National Capital Region (NCR) and come up with mitigation measures.
On Friday, senior officials, including secretaries from the ministries of environment, health, housing and urban affairs, and the Central Pollution Control Board deposed before the Parliamentary committee on steps taken for prevention of air pollution in Delhi and NCR.
Members of the panel expressed concern that the high pollution level will further aggravate the Covid-19 situation in the capital.
“We are in a danger zone if the pollution level in the city is not checked. The measures taken by the governments are not enough,” a member of the committee told ThePrint, quoting the MPs as saying.
The MPs also sought economic assistance for small and marginal farmers to help them buy machines that can help curb pollution because of stubble burning.
“MPs also said that there is an urgent need to create awareness among farmers about the ill-effects of stubble burning,” a second MP, who is a member of the committee, told ThePrint.
Senior officials from Delhi, Haryana, Punjab and Uttar Pradesh also deposed before the Parliamentary panel.
Also read: Delhi’s air quality hits ‘very poor’ category as AQI crosses 300 mark
Inadequate pollution data
The MPs also questioned the inadequate pollution-related data provided by the government officials.
“When an MP sought to know the pollution level in Delhi and NCR on 6 November 2018 and 6 November 2019, officials said they don’t have such data, forcing the Parliamentary panel chairman, Jagdambika Pal, to tell them to submit all relevant data asked by the members,” the second MP said.
Measures to decongest traffic
Aam Aadmi Party MP Sanjay Singh, who is a member of the panel, demanded stringent action against polluting industries.
“Singh said that while farmers are being harassed, industries causing pollution are being let off,” the second MP quoted Singh as saying.
The member added: “To this, a senior official from the UP government said that the state has filed over 2,000 cases against industrialists whose industries are releasing polluting effluents in the air.”
The parliamentarians also said that more measures need to be taken to decongest traffic in bigger states.
“A member suggested that the government should look into building bypass roads on the lines of eastern and western peripheral expressways built around Delhi so that traffic not meant for the city does not enter,” said a third member of the panel.
Officials from the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs presented various measures taken to decongest traffic in Delhi. This included eight road projects that are either complete or underway, managing parking pricing, improving regional connectivity through Regional Rapid Transit System, among others.
In their presentation before the committee, health ministry officials cited an ICMR study done between June 2017 and May 2019 according to which there has been an increase of 20-40 per cent in the proportion of patients visiting the emergency ward of four city hospitals with acute respiratory symptoms as the air quality worsened.
Also read: Delhi’s air quality continues to remain ‘poor’, likely to worsen due to spike in farm fires