While Delhi is witnessing the hazardous level of air quality, the Delhi government has been mostly engaged in a blame-game. But, it is important to note that the Delhi government has left a large chunk of its environmental cess unspent. In a written reply to an RTI filed by The Sunday Guardian, the Transport Department of the Delhi has reportedly revealed that the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government had only spent 1.6% of the total environmental cess collected to combat pollution in the recent four years.
As per reports, a total of ₹883 crores were collected by the AAP government as environmental cess in the last 4 years. An amount of ₹503 crores was collected in 2017, ₹228 crores in 2018 and ₹110 crores in 2019 and ₹4 crores till September 2020. Most of it was collected as environmental cess from incoming trucks to Delhi and a part of diesel sale in the NCR. But, the AAP-ruled Delhi government had spent only 1.6% of the environmental cess, even though the Chief Minister had assured to contain the menace of pollution in Delhi.
It was reported that only ₹15.58 crores were spent in the last 4 years for clean air and environmental protection. The RTI reply to Sunday Guardian reportedly revealed that no amount was spent in 2017 for the cause while ₹15 lacs were spent in 2018 for maintenance of improvement of non-motor vehicle lanes. An additional 43 crores were spent for the deployment of civil defence volunteers as marshals in Delhi. Although AAP had promised to procure hydrogen-powered buses for public transport, the Delhi government has spent only ₹15 crores since 2019 for the same. The RTI reply also stated that the government had released around ₹265 crores for the development of the Delhi-Meerut RRTS (Rapid Rail Transport System) after a court order in 2018. The funds were released from the environmental cess collected.
Arvind Kejriwal blames air pollution for rising Coronavirus cases
In a press conference on November 13, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal had claimed that pollution was responsible for the drastic rise of Coronavirus cases in the National Capital. As of November 13, Delhi has recorded a whopping 43,116 active cases and a total of 7,332 fatalities. Arvind Kejriwal stated, “…When we wake up from sleep, we see only smoke around us. The number of Coronavirus cases in Delhi is rising dramatically. And the major reason behind this is pollution. We had earlier controlled the number of active cases, till October 20. But, since then, cases have been on the rise. There are many reasons but pollution happens to be the major reason…”