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As Delhi Gasps for Breath, Punjab, Haryana Ministers Skip Centre's Pollution Meeting

Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal blamed stubble burning in Punjab for the rising pollution levels in the national capital as he slammed the Centre for failing to provide straw management machinery to the farmers.

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Updated:November 1, 2018, 7:08 PM IST
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As Delhi Gasps for Breath, Punjab, Haryana Ministers Skip Centre's Pollution Meeting
People wearing masks display placards during a protest against Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal at Jantar Mantar on Thursday. (PTI)
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The political slugfest over Delhi’s toxic air intensified on Thursday after ministers from Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan skipped a crucial meeting called by the Union environment ministry to study stubble burning and the air pollution in the city.

Union environment minister Harsh Vardhan had convened the meeting of ministers and officials from Delhi's neighbouring states but the ministers chose to give it a miss, inviting criticism from the Delhi government for making light of the situation.

Delhi environment minister Imran Hussain, who attended the meeting, said it should have been taken seriously, while Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal questioned the absence of the ministers.

Later in the day, Kejriwal said stubble burning in Punjab was the sole reason behind the rising pollution levels in the national capital as he slammed the Centre for failing to provide straw management machinery to the farmers.

Justifying his claim by showing a satellite picture of stubble burning in Punjab as well as Haryana, Kejriwal rejected the claims that Delhi's air quality had worsened due to its traffic or industries.

"This is a satellite image... You can see the red spots which indicates stubble burning in several parts of Punjab including Bathinda and Amritsar... There cannot be a more scientific (proof) than this," Kejriwal said while addressing the media here.

"There is a small portion of Haryana (burning stubble) but its role is quite limited. Otherwise, it (stubble burning) is mostly happening in Punjab, Kejriwal said, adding that Delhi had neither witnessed a sudden rise in vehicles plying on the road nor new industries had opened up overnight

However, trying to play down the issue, Harsh Vardhan said though the ministers had skipped the meet, they had sent their representatives. "Let there be no politics on this matter. We have talked to the ministers from Punjab and Haryana and they sent their representatives here,” he told the media, adding that stubble burning had reduced by 30 per cent since last year but the drop was not enough.

Delhi on Thursday witnessed "near severe" air quality, while Noida in Uttar Pradesh as well as Faridabad and Gurugram in Haryana suffered "severe" air quality.

Harsh Vardhan said his Ministry was monitoring the situation and 52 teams of officials from his ministry, Delhi government and other agencies were keeping a vigil on the environment.

"For next five days there will be more active monitoring... The time of Diwali is always very crucial as several things lead to a spike in pollution, due to stubble burning, local pollutants and weather conditions," he said.
| Edited by: Apoorva Misra
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