Only Delhi Minister Answers Centre’s Call, 4 States Skip Pollution Meet

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The environment minister said that steps being taken to stop stubble-burning are far from satisfactory

New Delhi:

With air pollution levels in Delhi and adjoining areas falling in the "very poor" category, Union Environment Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan called a meeting of the environment ministers of five north Indian states today. However, only Delhi minister Imran Hussain showed up. The environment ministers of Haryana, Punjab, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh decided to skip the meeting and chose to send bureaucrats instead.

At the meeting, Dr Harsh Vardhan said that steps being taken by Punjab and Haryana to control stubble-burning are "far from satisfactory". But the ministers of the two states weren't there to listen to him.

The minister also blamed the Delhi government for falling short of meeting its targets to rein in pollution from construction activities, open dumping, burning of waste, traffic congestion and road dust.

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Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal tweeted questioning the absence of environment ministers of the neighbouring states. "Why didn't ministers from other states attend? Its a collective problem and I urge everyone to please work together. Only then can we find a soln (sic)."

Mr Hussain asserted that Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh should also show seriousness in curbing the increasing air pollution in the National Capital Region.

However, Dr Harsh Vardhan said the issue of air pollution "should not be politicised".

Delhi's air quality index was recorded at 393 today, only seven points shy of falling in the "severe" category, forcing authorities to enforce an emergency plan.

The government has said that it aims to reduce stubble burning by 70 per cent in Punjab and Haryana, but it seems to have fallen way short of the target. By Dr Harsh Vardhan's own admission, the overall incidents of crop burning were down 30 per cent compared to last year.

Delhi is headed for a "deadly cocktail" of pollution in the coming weeks as bursting of firecrackers on Diwali on November 7 would coincide with crop burning.

(With inputs from PTI and Reuters)

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