While Delhi finds itself grappling with severe air pollution, an annual recurrence that has become all too predictable, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP)-led government is clueless about the source of the pollution.
Notably, just three years ago, the Delhi government was confident in attributing the source of air pollution to stubble burning in Punjab and Haryana but since AAP formed a government in Punjab, the Arvind Kejriwal government's stance changed.
Delhi's Minister and AAP leader, Atishi, stated on Wednesday (25 October) that there is no official data available that can pinpoint the various sources contributing to the pollution levels in the national capital, India Today reported.
She further emphasised that formulating a policy to combat pollution in the capital is challenging when the government lacks a comprehensive understanding of which sources are responsible for the pollution and to what extent.
Yet, three years ago, Atishi had taken a completely different stance. Back in November 2020, she had cited data from the Indian Council for Agricultural Research (ICAR), asserting, "Delhi's pollution is directly linked to stubble burning in Haryana and Punjab."
In November 2020, Atishi Marlena had squarely blamed stubble burning in Punjab and Haryana for the pollution in Delhi.
She had even urged the Air Quality Commission to take suo motu cognizance and file cases of criminal negligence against the Chief Ministers of Haryana and Punjab, contending that the stubble burning in these states was causing "unbearable air pollution" in Delhi.
In her correspondence, Atishi highlighted the direct correlation between the Air Quality Index (AQI) in Delhi and the incidence of farm fires in Punjab. She further emphasised that the air quality in Delhi exhibited improvement as the occurrences of farm fires and stubble burning in Punjab decreased.
At that time, Amarinder Singh from the Congress was the Chief Minister of Punjab, and Manohar Lal Khattar from the BJP was the Haryana CM. Today, Punjab is governed by AAP leader Bhagwant Mann.
In the same year, the Delhi cabinet signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with IIT-Kanpur in October 2022 to conduct a real-time study on the sources of pollution in the national capital.
The estimated cost of this project was over Rs 12 crore, and the Delhi government allocated only Rs 10 crore to IIT-Kanpur for procuring the necessary equipment and establishing a centralised data collection center, as declared by Environment Minister Gopal Rai on Wednesday.
Now, the AAP government in Delhi alleges that the Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC) Chairman, Ashwani Kumar, arbitrarily halted the study.
It was during the press conference held to make this announcement that Atishi stated that there was no data available to determine the sources contributing to Delhi's pollution, a stark contrast to her previous reliance on ICAR data linking the issue to stubble burning in Haryana and Punjab.
Nishtha Anushree is Senior Sub-editor at Swarajya. She tweets at @nishthaanushree.
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