The air quality in Delhi-NCR is showing now signs of improving for another three days, authorities said on Monday. The assessment came as the Supreme Court directed the Centre to call an emergency meeting to chalk out measures, like stopping non-essential constructions, transport and power plants, by Tuesday evening.

The apex court took note of the Centre’s submission that stubble burning in neighbouring states is not a major contributor to Delhi’s air pollution and suggested that the national capital focus on dust, industry and vehicular emissions.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta told the Supreme Court that stubble burning “now is not a major contributor to the pollution, as of now it is 10 per cent”.

The Samyukta Kisan Morcha, a forum of farmer unions protesting the farm laws, also hit out at the Delhi government, saying they have always pointed out that “criminalisation and penalisation of farmers is not a solution to the problem”.

Meanwhile later today, Delhi Environment Minister Gopal Rai demanded to know the source of Centre’s stubble burning data and claimed that its share rose to a high of 48 per cent in the last 10 days.

“According to SAFAR, the share of stubble burning in Delhi’s PM2.5 pollution rose to a high of 48 per cent in the last 10 days. This is central government data which is available in the public domain. Only the Centre will be able to specify the source of the data that stubble burning accounts for only 10 per cent (of Delhi’s pollution)…. It does not make sense,” he said.

Rai also said a joint action plan is the solution to the problem of air pollution and that the city government will emphasize this point in the meeting of Centre and NCR states on Tuesday.

The minister also held a meeting with officials of the Delhi Metro and Delhi Transport Corporation to discuss ways to increase the carrying capacity of the capital’s public transport system.

“DMRC and DTC have been asked to prepare a plan in this regard within two days,” he said.

The minister said the Delhi government is willing to take more steps to resolve the issue.

“We have been making efforts on our end to reduce our share of pollution. We are ready to do more and take more new steps. We are ready to implement the suggestions of the Supreme Court and experts, if any, he said.

The air quality in Delhi-NCR deteriorated marginally on Monday and no improvement is predicted over the next three days, authorities said.

Delhi’s 24-hour average air quality index stood at 353 at 4 pm. A significant drop in emissions from farm fires had brought the capital’s 24-hour average AQI down from 437 on Saturday to 330 on Sunday.

Faridabad (319), Ghaziabad (335), Greater Noida (317), Gurugram (332) and Noida (338) also recorded very poor air quality at 4 pm.

The share of stubble burning in Delhi’s pollution stood at 10 per cent on Monday, the lowest since Diwali (November 4). On an average, farm fires have accounted for around 25 per cent of the PM2.5 pollution in Delhi from November 1 to November 15.

According to an analysis by the Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC), people in the national capital breathe the worst air between November 1 and November 15 every year, as unhelpful meteorological conditions trap pollutants from local sources and stubble burning in neighbouring states of Punjab and Haryana.

On Saturday, the Delhi government announced closure of physical classes in schools, colleges and other educational institutions for a week from Monday. All government offices, agencies and autonomous bodies, except those involved in essential services, have been asked to work from home. 

No construction and demolition activity is allowed in the national capital till November 17, the government announced in a desperate effort to contain spiralling air pollution levels.

(With PTI inputs)

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