Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal today sought a meeting with his counterparts in Punjab and Haryana to discuss ways to tackle the alarming air pollution levels in Delhi. In letters to the chief ministers of Haryana and Punjab, Kejriwal said the governments in the neighbouring states had failed to provide farmers with viable alternatives to stubble burning, a process that leads to air pollution in Delhi. Delhi’s air quality was the season’s worst yesterday as the combined effect of smoke from stubble burning — setting fire to straw stubble after a harvest — and moisture turned the city into what Kejriwal called a “gas chamber”. “You are aware about the poor air quality in Delhi. It has become difficult to breath. Delhi has become a gas chamber and I had to order the closure of schools in Delhi to save young children from the adverse effect of poor air quality,” Kejriwal said in identical letters to Manohar Lal Khattar of Haryana and Captain Amarinder Singh of Punjab.
The Delhi chief minister said one of the main reasons for the poor quality of Delhi’s air this time of the year was the stubble burning in Punjab and Haryana. “Farmers are helpless. In the absence of any economically viable alternative, they are forced to burn stubbles,” Kejriwal said, adding that the governments had failed to provide them with viable solutions. Kejriwal also offered to jointly work with Punjab and Haryana to resolve the issue “in a spirit of mutual cooperation in larger public interest”. “In this connection, I want to meet you in the next couple of days for a discussion. I invite you to my office or I can come to you. Please let me know your convenience,” he added. Meanwhile, the Delhi government has announced that all schools in the national capital will remain closed till Sunday because of the toxic air. It also issued a health advisory for high-risk people, including children, the elderly, pregnant women and those suffering from asthma and heart ailments, asking them to avoid, among other things, early morning and evening walks. The Indian Medical Association said the capital was witnessing a “public health emergency” and appealed to the government to stop outdoor sports and other such activities in schools to protect the health of children.