BEIJING:As pollution level climbed to 12 times above the recommended limit this week in India’s capital, government officials said they knew what was needed to control the smoky haze, but nothing would be done, at least this year.
A major source of the smog at this time of year across northern India, including New Delhi, is farmers burning the stubble of the previous crop to prepare for new plantings in November, according to a report published in Global Times here on Friday.
An estimated $600 million is needed to provide farmers with alternatives, but the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and opposition parties in power in New Delhi and nearby Punjab states are squabbling over who will pay, said three federal government officials who have been briefed on the situation.
“Nothing more is likely to happen this year,” said one of them. “We’re now praying. Only God can save us.”
The official said he had bought pollution masks for his family and installed air purifiers at his home in New Delhi, now the most polluted city in the world, according to the Brookings Institute. The city is home to more than 20 million people.
A spokesperson of the federal environment ministry declined to comment on federal and state governments bickering over funds to tackle the problem of stubble burning.
The provincial leaders of New Delhi and neighboring Haryana states, after exchanging barbs on Twitter for days, have agreed on measures to control the smog – in 2018.
As a thick blanket of haze settled over parts of northern India, including the capital, over the past few days, the official response to what has become an annual phenomenon has been marked by paralysis and lack of ownership, interviews with government officials show.
It’s been particularly bad this year with levels of PM 2.5, tiny particulate matter that reaches deep into the lungs, climbing to over 600 last week. The upper limit for healthy air is 50, the government has said.-APP