Steady rise in Corona, pollution, and stubble burning: Delhi’s public health crises

As the number of corona cases steadily increase in Delhi, it also faces the worsening air quality resulting in more health crisis
Steady rise in Corona, pollution, and stubble burning: Delhi’s public health crises

Yesterday, Delhi, Gurugram, Noida, and other parts had reported an Air Quality Index above 400, with Ghaziabad striking 432. AQI above 300 is categorised as hazardous to living, and studies have shown that such bad air can shave 10 years from an average person’s life. It can also severely affect those suffering from asthma or other such breathing issues. On Friday, the Supreme Court had asked Centre to ensure no smog in Delhi-NCR regions. The SC bench headed by Chief Justice SA Bobde did this addressing the new Commission for Air Quality Management had started on the same day. While the committee recommended a punishment of five years jail term or Rs 1 crore fine or both, the SC asked them to grade offences and give out separate punishments.

Meanwhile, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal has issued a blanket ban on the sale and use of firecrackers until the end of this month. This is to ensure not only environmental safety but also to curb the spread of corona. Amidst this conversation on pollution, Delhi also faces a severe corona problem and that could exacerbate during this environmental crisis. A petitioner had told the SC that the situation in Delhi is akin to a “public health crisis” and considering the corona pandemic, Delhi is one problem short of a health apocalypse.

Delhi has been seeing a steady rise in the number of Covid cases, recording more than 6,000 cases for three consecutive days. This puts Delhi on top again, after it wriggled out of that spot. With the increase in the number of cases, Delhi is also on the fast track to join Maharashtra, Kerala, and Karnataka as the largest contributor to the total cases in India. However, while the committee does its work to reduce smog and control pollution, the SC will hear further pleas after the holidays, and some feel it might be too late.

Another persisting problem for Delhi is the stubble burning in other states. On Friday, Union Minister of Environment, Forest, and Climate Change Prakash Javadekar said the central government was taking all steps to tackle air pollution in New Delhi and other parts of north India as winter approaches. “The government is taking all necessary steps to combat air pollution in Delhi and north India. We will be using all possible technological interventions towards it,” the minister said during the launch of the country's first demonstration plant of Praj Industries.

Steady rise in Corona, pollution, and stubble burning: Delhi’s public health crises
Policies in the time of stubble burning and Corona

Javadekar said stubble burning is an economical way to get rid of the agricultural waste but it severely affects air quality in New Delhi and other northern states. “The Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI) has created a Pusa bio-decomposer, an affordable way to get rid of the stubble. We have used it in five states and the results are awaited. By spraying it, the stubble dissolves so it will be a very big success,” said Javadekar.

He said the use of technology by way of decomposers, gas and other machinery would save New Delhi and its surrounding regions from air pollution due to stubble burning. Javadekar added polluting industries were being monitored 24/7, adding 6,000 tons of debris and waste material generated at construction sites were being used to make tiles and paver blocks.

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