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As Delhi's air quality worsens, Punjab shuts polluting brick kilns

Delhi's air quality has deteriorated steadily for most parts of the month. Can neighbouring states rescue the country's capital this year?

As Delhi's air quality worsens, Punjab shuts polluting brick kilns
File photo

New Delhi: The air over the national capital region has steadily deteriorated for most parts of this month. And with Diwali coming up, there is no respite in sight for residents. What could come as a partial relief for locals here though is Punjab government's decision to shut down all polluting brick kilns in the state.

The state government recently decided to halt work at all brick kilns here from Saturday which have not adopted proper anti-pollution technology. While its direct impact in bringing down pollution levels in Delhi cannot be ascertained with certainty, environmentalists mostly agree that it can do no harm to the air quality here as well as in Punjab.

Wind speeds and direction have often been blamed for bringing polluted air from Punjab and Haryana into Delhi during the pre-winter and winter months. The burning of stubble in agricultural fields too has been cited as a major reason why the country's capital has one of the worst air qualities in the world. Despite numerous measures and efforts of state governments as well as the Centre, the ground reality has been far from ideal with most farmers saying it is more economical for them to pay fines than adopt cleaner technologies.

As a result, Delhi's air quality has once again reached alarming levels.

An emergency action plan - Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP) - was implemented in the city last Monday following a number of days with poor air quality. Ban on burning of garbage and checks on brick kilns and industrial units in the city have already begun even if the result is yet to bear fruit. On Friday, air quality in several parts of the city was 10 times in excess of what is considered safe by the World Health Organisation. All eyes now are on Diwali when pollution levels spike even further - and alarmingly at that. The Supreme Court has already restricted the time to burn crackers to two hours and has only permitted bursting of green crackers which are essentially low on smoke and fumes. Implementation of the order, though, remains shrouded in the haze that has become an all-too-familiar sight in the city.