Kejriwal under fire as smog in Delhi reaches ‘severe’ levels on AQI
As pollution in New Delhi hit "severe" levels on the air quality index on Saturday, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal came under fire following reports he had left the city for an overseas family trip. For the second year, Kejriwal has likened Delhi to a "gas chamber".
Seasonal burning of crop stubble in neighbouring states and fireworks during Diwali on November 7 have aggravated smog levels over the past few days, which were already high from vehicle emissions, industrial gases and construction work.
Local news channels said Kejriwal had left the country on a private family trip to Dubai, triggering backlash on social media and finger-pointing on Twitter by the BJP's Delhi unit.
"Arvind Kejriwal cares about his family so much that he urgently booked tickets and ran away to Dubai with them as soon as Delhi started choking with pollution," read one tweet.
A member of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) told Reuters the chief minister was not in the city. He declined to elaborate or be identified as he is not authorised to speak to the media. A government spokesman did not respond to calls seeking comment.
Environmental activists say residents need to be more vocal about holding political leaders accountable over pollution.
"Public pressure has to be much sharper and should demand compliance. Directions, policies have been issued but stringent implementation is needed," said Anumita Roychowdhury, executive director at the Centre for Science and Environment, a think-tank.
Still, there is little sign in Delhi that residents are doing much to protect themselves from the smog. Activists say the apparent lack of concern about the pollution gives politicians the cover they need for failing to address the problem.
The Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority had banned all construction activity and ordered the use of sprinklers until Saturday, among other measures. On Saturday, it indicated the measures would be extended till Monday.