On Saturday (November 13), the Supreme Court of India asked the Union government whether lockdown could be imposed for a few days to improve the Air Quality Index (AQI) in the National Capital. A petition was filed before the apex court to control the air pollution levels in Delhi.
The matter came up before a Bench compromising of the Chief Justice of India (CJI) NV Ramana. He remarked, “Tell us how we can reduce AQI from 500 at least by 200 points. Take some urgent measures. Can you think of two days lockdown or something? How can people live? Air quality in Delhi is in the ‘severe’ category and in another 2 to 3 days it will dip further. Take an emergency decision. We will look at a long term solution later.”
Supreme Court to the Centre during a hearing on plea on air pollution in Delhi – Little children have to go to school in this weather, we are exposing them to this. Dr Guleria (AIIMS) said we are exposing them to pollution, pandemic and dengue.— ANI (@ANI) November 13, 2021
The Supreme Court noted that that the air quality in the National Capital had deteriorated to an extent that people are now wearing masks at home. While defending the farmers over stubble burning, the court inquired, “Central government says 2 lakh machines are available for stubble burning and in the market, there are 2-3 kinds of machines available but farmers can’t afford to buy them. Why can’t the Centre/State govt provide these machines to farmers or take away the stubble?”
The apex court stated that it had become a fashion to bash farmers. The Court directed the Centre to take urgent steps within a span of 2-3 days so that the air pollution levels decrease in the National capital. “Little children have to go to school in this weather, we are exposing them to this. Dr Guleria (AIIMS) said we are exposing them to pollution, pandemic and dengue,” the Bench headed by the CJI concluded.
The court also pulled up the Arvind Kejriwal-led-Delhi government over the non-installation of smog towers and emission control projects. “You have opened all schools in the national capital and now children are exposed to pollutants. This is not the Centre’s but your jurisdiction. What is happening on that front?”
Stubble burning is the major contributor of fog in Delhi
According to the Fire Information for Resource Management System of NASA, the incident of fires in Punjab and Haryana have gone up significantly in the month of October, with it reaching its peak in the last week. Social media users also have pointed out how the farmers burning their stubble are responsible for the pollution, not firecrackers.
NASA uses red dots to indicate incidents of fire caught by satellites, and the maps for 31st October and 5th November show that almost the entire state is covered with red dots, which means that crop residues are being burnt at almost all the farmland in the state to clear the land for the next cultivation. Similarly, a large portion of Haryana is also covered with such red dots indicating fire.
In November last year, contribution of stubble burning to the pollution in Delhi had reached 40%. And there is nothing to suggest that circumstances this year will be drastically different.
There is also an indication that the farmers time stubble burning with Diwali, so that the pollution caused by them is blamed on firecrackers. When Swarajya Magazine editor Arihant Pawariya asked a farmer why they were burning stubble during Diwali, the farmer had replied that nobody will catch them as it is the time of the festivals.
Therefore, even if there was no bursting of firecrackers due to Diwali, Delhi’s air quality would not have been any better. Due to wind direction, the smoke from the stubble burning in Punjab and Haryana move towards Delhi, where it remains stationary due to the lack of wind movement in the region. Fog caused by lower temperate captures the pollutants in the air and keep them suspended in the air for a longer time, which creates toxic smog.