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Rediff.com  » News » Toxic smog: Kejriwal, Khattar meet, resolve to check pollution

Toxic smog: Kejriwal, Khattar meet, resolve to check pollution

Last updated on: November 15, 2017 18:01 IST

IMAGE: Schoolchildren, wearing masks, take part in an awareness march on the alarming levels of air pollution in New Delhi on Wednesday. 
Photograph: Kamal Singh/PTI Photo

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and his Haryana counterpart Manohar Lal Khattar on Wednesday resolved to put in 'sustained efforts' to check pollution and discussed measures to ensure smog does not envelop the national capital in the winter of 2018.

Kejriwal held a nearly 90-minute meeting at Khattar's residence in Chandigarh and it primarily focussed on air pollution and stubble burning that is a major contributory factor to smog, which has engulfed the national capital and parts of Haryana and Punjab over the past nearly two weeks.

 

A joint statement was issued after the meeting, in which their environment ministers and other top officials also participated.

'We the chief ministers of Delhi and Haryana are happy to have had a very fruitful meeting at Chandigarh today. We recognised our deep and shared concern over the recent episode of heavy smog in our National Capital Region. We agreed upon the need for action on many measures aimed at preventing its re-occurrence in the winter of 2018,' according to the statement.

It said that during the discussions, the two sides agreed that 'serious health risks to which such episodes of smog expose one and all require concrete and quick action on a number of fronts'.

'In today's (Wednesday's) meeting we covered crop residue burning and vehicular pollution issues. We resolve to put in sustained efforts in pursuance of the jointly identified action points in the coming days, weeks and months.

'We look forward to covering other sources of air and water pollution in our future discussions,' the statement said.

The two chief ministers also briefly met the media later after their meeting.

IMAGE: Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar welcomes his Delhi counterpart Arvind Kejriwal to visited Chandigarh along with his environment minister and environment secretary. Photograph: Courtesy @AamAadmiParty/Twitter

Kejriwal said that states may be separated by territorial boundaries, but nobody has control over air and joint efforts need to be put in by all stakeholders to check pollution.

"Therefore, it is very important that the country's top political executive, both of states and the Centre, everyone will have to collectively find a solution to this problem," he said.

"I believe today's meeting is just a beginning. It is an indication that to deal with this problem, we are ready to take whatever steps are required to be taken. We had a discussion on crop burning, on vehicular pollution, as also on bypasses which are being built, we had a discussion on how we can introduce CNG vehicles.

"They gave us suggestions that there are some stretches, like for example Delhi-Gurgaon has only one road stretch and if the Dwarka bypass can be expedited, likewise Badarpur-Ashram stretch...," Kejriwal said touching upon steps that can be taken to de-congest traffic and bring down pollution levels caused by vehicles.

He also said, "I believe that message should go out that at the top level whatever steps are needed to be taken we are ready to take those steps. This is an indication to governments of both the states that strict steps should be taken to curb pollution."

Khattar said there is really genuine concern about smog, which has engulfed northern states, especially in NCR.

Farmers can't give up stubble burning completely: Amarinder

Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on Wednesday said 'farmers cannot be expected to give up crop residue burning completely', till the time they are provided viable solutions.

Asserting that a long-term solution was needed to arrest the problem of crop residue burning, the Punjab chief minister said the state government was looking for affordable solutions for this problem.

Notably, farmers of Punjab and Haryana have been blamed for the rising air pollution level in northern states including Delhi triggered by their stubble burning.

"We are engaged in spreading awareness among farmers on the need to stop burning the stubble, not just for the sake of others but also for their own sake, as they are the worst affected by the air pollution triggered by such burning.

"However, till we are able to offer them viable solutions, we cannot really expect them to completely give up burning crop residue since it's a matter of their livelihood and survival," Singh told PTI.

The Punjab CM has refused to meet Kejriwal after the latter sought a meeting with him in Chandigarh.

He urged the Aam Aadmi Party national convener to refrain from trying to 'politicise' such a serious issue.

Singh said he failed to understand why the Delhi chief minister was trying to force his hand, knowing well that any such discussion on the issue would be 'meaningless and futile'.

The Punjab CM has been pressing hard for intervention of the Centre to convene a meeting of chief ministers of the affected states along with the Union ministers for agriculture, food and environment to find out a long-term solution to stubble burning issue.

"It has been happening for the last two years. This problem is not related to only one state but it is a common concern. We are taking steps in our respective states whether it is stubble burning or vehicular pollution," he said.

He said his government has decided to give subsidy to farmers and government procurement agencies on the purchase of 8-9 implements in order to tackle stubble burning problem.

"This year, the number of incidents of stubble burning has dropped in Haryana. Satellite pictures show that we have controlled it to a large extent in Haryana," he said.

He said Delhi is the capital of India and 'we will collectively try to ensure smog does not envelop Delhi'.

Kejriwal had earlier said that Khattar had invited him to Chandigarh on Wednesday for the meeting as he could not meet him in Delhi because he was very busy.

The Delhi chief minister had sought a meeting with his counterparts from Haryana and Punjab to find a solution to stubble burning in neighbouring states, a major source of high pollution levels in Delhi.

The practice of burning of crop residue by farmers of Punjab and Haryana has been blamed for the toxic smog enveloping the region every winter.

Kejriwal recently said the Centre, Haryana, Punjab and Delhi governments should keep political differences aside and come together to find a permanent solution to stubble burning.

On Tuesday, Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh again ruled out a meeting with Kejriwal, asking him not to 'politicise' the serious matter.

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