Centre blames Punjab government for turning Delhi into a ‘gas chamber’

With the air quality turning ‘very poor’, Union Minister Bhupendra Yadav says Punjab has seen 19% rise in farm fires compared to 2021, with 3,634 incidents reported on Wednesday 

Published - November 03, 2022 01:30 am IST - NEW DELHI

A farmer burns stubble on a paddy field on the outskirts of Amritsar on Wednesday. AFP

A farmer burns stubble on a paddy field on the outskirts of Amritsar on Wednesday. AFP | Photo Credit: AFP

Union Environment Minister Bhupendra Yadav has blamed Punjab’s Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government for turning Delhi into a “gas chamber”.

With the air quality index at 376, or “very poor” as on Wednesday evening, Mr. Yadav, in a series of tweets, remarked that Punjab had seen a 19% increase in farm fires over 2021, with 3,634 farm fires reported on Wednesday.

“There is no doubt over who has turned Delhi into a gas chamber,” he wrote.

The Centre gave ₹1,347 crore for crop residue management machines to Punjab of which 11,275 (or around 10%) had gone missing. “Money utilisation shows sheer incompetence,” he said. Despite making available ₹492 crore to the State, the Punjab government chose to sit with the funds, “forcing helpless farmers to burn the crop residue”, Mr. Yadav alleged.

Farm fires in Sangrur, the constituency of Punjab Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann, shot up by 139%, rising to 3,025 from the 1,266 between September 15 and November 2, 2021, he added.

The air quality of the national capital on the night of October 31, 2022 deteriorated to the “severe” category, according to Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) data.

Delhi’s 24-hour average air quality index (AQI) was 403 at 10 p.m. on Monday, up from 392 (“very poor”) category, as per the CPCB’s 4 p.m. daily official bulletin, which is considered as the day’s official AQI.  A higher value of AQI means an increase in air pollution.

Unfavourable meteorological conditions

These conditions are expected to persist for most of this week due to unfavourable meteorological conditions, experts have noted.

Data from government agencies however suggest that despite a rise in instances of stubble burning in Delhi, the share of pollutants from such burning to Delhi NCR quality is declining.

Crop burning instances in 2021 and 2022 were roughly the same until October 25, after which there was a divergence and more instances recorded this year than the same date last year. So far, there have been 21,480 instances recorded in Punjab this year compared to 18,066 last year, according to data from the Consortium for Research on Agroecosystem Monitoring and Modelling from Space (CREAMS) Laboratory, Indian Agricultural Research Institute.

However, the percentage share of pollution from stubble burning rose from 5% to 26% on October 26 after which it has steadily fallen to 12% as of November 2. However, the contribution of stubble burning to Delhi’s air pollution is more than what it was same time last year. This is according to numbers from the SAFAR monitoring facility maintained by the Ministry of Earth Sciences.

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