New Delhi, Nov 9 (PTI) Union Environment Minister Bhupender Yadav on Thursday alleged the AAP government's "criminal failure" to provide alternatives to farmers in Punjab has "turned Delhi into a gas chamber".
He said the Centre has given Rs 1,426.41 crore to Punjab for procurement of machines to manage crop residue and that AAP convener Arvind Kejriwal and Punjab Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann should answer how they spent the money.
"This country is yet to see a bigger liar than Arvind Kejriwal. 93 percent of farm fire events this year have happened in Punjab, turning Delhi-NCR into a gas chamber, because the Aam Aadmi Party has failed to provide alternatives to farmers. This is a criminal failure of governance on the part of AAP," Yadav posted on X.
Meanwhile, central government sources said stubble burning in Punjab is the major reason behind air pollution in Delhi-NCR during the paddy harvesting season.
They said a total of 22,644 stubble burning incidents have been recorded between September 15 and November 7. Punjab accounted for 93 per cent of these farm fires.
The sources attributed the "high number of stubble burning incidents" in Punjab to the lack of incentive schemes by the state government.
"The Haryana government has been implementing their own incentive scheme for ex-situ management, that is, for procurement of straw from farmers and its transportation, etc. It also informed about an incentive scheme being implemented for encouraging farmers to shift from paddy to other crops," a source said.
Officials in the meeting noted that the Punjab government should immediately launch similar schemes.
A source said a bio-decomposer, which was presented by the Delhi government as a cost-effective solution to stubble burning, has also failed to control farm fires.
According to data from the Decision Support System, a numerical model-based framework capable of identifying sources of particulate matter pollution in Delhi, stubble burning in neighbouring states, especially Punjab and Haryana, accounted for 37 per cent of the air pollution in Delhi on Tuesday.
Delhi has recorded "severe" air quality on 6 days since November 3, with smoke from farm fires, especially in Punjab, being a major contributor to the capital's air pollution.
The air quality in Delhi on Thursday too was in the 'severe' category and monitoring agencies predict no significant relief in the next five to six days.
The city's 24-hour average Air Quality Index (AQI), recorded at 4 pm everyday, stood 437 on Thursday, worsening from 426 on Wednesday.
The AQI map prepared by the Central Pollution Control Board showed clusters of red dots (indicating hazardous air quality) spread across the Indo-Gangetic plains.
According to the Indian Agricultural Research Institute, Punjab, which accounts for the maximum number of cases of stubble burning every year, reported 49,922 farm fires in 2022, compared to 71,304 the previous year and 83,002 in 2020.
The agrarian state logged 50,738 incidents of stubble burning in 2019, 59,684 in 2018, 67,079 in 2017, and 102,379 in 2016.
Haryana recorded 3,661 farm fires in 2022, down from 6,987 in 2021 and 4,202 in 2020. The neighbouring state witnessed 6,364 incidents of stubble burning in 2019, 9,225 in 2018, 13,085 in 2017, and 15,686 in 2016.
The Commission for Air Quality Management (CAQM), a statutory body responsible for formulating strategies to reduce pollution in Delhi-NCR, reported that the number of stubble burning incidents in Punjab and Haryana since September 15 has reduced by around 56 percent and 40 percent, respectively, compared to the corresponding period last year.
The Punjab government aims to reduce farm fires by 50 per cent this winter season and eliminate stubble burning in six districts.
According to the state's action plan to curb paddy straw burning, about 31 lakh hectares of land in the state are under paddy cultivation, expected to generate around 16 million tonnes of paddy straw (non-basmati).
Haryana estimates that about 14.82 lakh hectares of land in the state are under paddy cultivation, expected to generate over 7.3 million tonnes of paddy straw (non-basmati). The state is making efforts to nearly eliminate farm fires this year.
Unfavourable meteorological conditions, combined with vehicular emissions, paddy straw burning, firecrackers and other local pollution sources contribute to hazardous air quality levels in Delhi-NCR during the winter every year.
According to a DPCC analysis, the capital experiences peak pollution from November 1 to November 15 when the number of stubble burning incidents in Punjab and Haryana increases.
Air quality in Delhi-NCR declined over the last two weeks due to a gradual drop in temperatures, calm winds that trap pollution and a surge in paddy straw burning across Punjab and Haryana.
Delhi's air quality ranks among the worst in the world's capital cities. PTI GVS ZMN