Slight improvement in Delhi's air quality; SC questions effectiveness of odd-even scheme

Slight improvement in Delhi's air quality; SC questions effectiveness of odd-even scheme

New Delhi, Nov 7 (PTI) Delhi's air quality showed a marginal improvement on Tuesday entering from 'severe' to 'very poor' category, even as the AAP government's odd-even car rationing scheme came under scrutiny by the Supreme Court which questioned its effectiveness and termed it 'all optics'.

Raj Niwas officials said the file on implementation of Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP) stage IV measures sent to Lt Governor V K Saxena by the AAP dispensation states that no decision has been taken on the enforcement of odd-even scheme. The government has already announced its implementation from November 13 to November 20.

Delhi Environment minister Gopal Rai said that decision to implement the scheme to curb air pollution was taken on November 6 and the file was sent for LG's approval on November 4 and alleged officers were 'misleading' Saxena.

Earlier in the day, Rai said the government will take into account the Supreme Court's directives on pollution while finalising the odd-even scheme.

The apex court, which was hearing a matter relating to debilitating air pollution in the Delhi-National Capital Region (NCR), asked the counsel for the Delhi government whether the odd-even scheme had succeeded when it was implemented earlier.

'These are all optics, this is the problem,' a bench of Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Sudhanshu Dhulia observed.

In signs of a fresh tussle between the LG and the Delhi government, Raj Niwas officials accused the AAP government of misleading public on the pollution issue, with Rai hitting back and saying that the proposal to implement the scheme was approved on November 6 while the file was sent on November 4.

Delhi Transport Minister Kailash Gahlot said polluting vehicles were entering the city freely despite restrictions under GRAP stage IV being in place in view of hazardous air quality and directed officials to ensure proper checking at the borders. In an official directive, he noted that there was no proper checking of polluting vehicles entering Delhi at odd hours from neighbouring states.

Delhi Mayor Shelly Oberoi said they have deployed water sprinklers, anti-smog guns and jetting machines.

'We are carrying out intensive water sprinkling with dust suppressant powder in areas with heavy pollution. The MCD and Delhi government are working together to curb pollution. I urge people to cooperate with us in this fight against pollution,' she told reporters.

Amid a spike in pollution levels in Delhi-NCR, the Supreme Court on Tuesday directed Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan to ensure crop residue burning was stopped 'forthwith', saying it cannot let 'people die' due to pollution.

'I am sorry, this is complete murder of health of people, there is no other phrase I have,' said Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul, who was heading the bench which also comprised Justice Sudhanshu Dhulia.

Taking a stern view of states trying to shift blame to one another for the pollution, the bench observed there cannot be 'political battle' all the time.

Even as the matter of the deteriorating air quality drew the attention of the apex court, pollution levels in Delhi marginally dipped and were recorded in the 'very poor' category after five consecutive days of 'severe' air quality, according to monitoring agencies.

According to data from the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), Delhi's 24-hour average Air Quality Index (AQI) stood at 395 on Tuesday, bringing a marginal improvement from the 421 recorded on Monday.

An AQI between zero and 50 is considered 'good', 51 and 100 'satisfactory', 101 and 200 'moderate', 201 and 300 'poor', 301 and 400 'very poor', and 401 and 500 'severe'.

The respite is going to be short-lived, as according to the Ministry of Earth Science's Air Quality Early Warning System for the Delhi-NCR, the air quality is likely to deteriorate and reach the 'severe' category on November 8. It is expected to be in the 'very poor' category on November 9 and November 10.

The region is likely to experience 'very poor' to 'severe' air quality for another five to six days, the Air Quality Early Warning System said.

A political blame game continued over the pollution situation in Delhi with former environment minister and senior Congress leader Jairam Ramesh on Tuesday saying both the Centre and the states have been complicit in their 'inaction', in the wake of SC's observations.

The BJP said the apex court's directive on pollution is a slap on the face of Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and demanded that he apologise for turning the national capital into a gas chamber.

The chorus for having long-term measures to curb pollution grew louder with parents asking the government to find a permanent solution to the problem rather than asking schools to go for online classes.

As the air quality in Delhi remains multiple times above the government-prescribed safe limit, old age homes in the national capital are taking slew of measures to protect the elderly population from the harmful effects of air pollution.

From installing air purifiers to keeping stock of oxygen cylinder, the old age homes here have ramped up measures to safeguard their elderly residents. PTI ABU COR SJJ ABA ASK PK KND SLB CK

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