As Delhi smog hits ‘se­vere’ level, city chief un­der fire

Kuwait Times - - International -

NEW DELHI: As pol­lu­tion in In­dia’s cap­i­tal hit “se­vere” on the air qual­ity scale yes­ter­day, the New Delhi chief min­is­ter came un­der fire fol­low­ing re­ports he had left the city for an over­seas fam­ily trip. For a sec­ond year the chief min­is­ter, Arvind Ke­jri­wal, has likened Delhi to a “gas cham­ber” be­cause of the pol­lu­tion. Sea­sonal burn­ing of crop stub­ble and smoke from fire­works let off to cel­e­brate the Hindu fes­ti­val of Di­wali on Nov. 7 have ag­gra­vated al­ready high smog lev­els in the past few days from ve­hi­cle emis­sions, in­dus­trial gases and con­struc­tion work.

Lo­cal tele­vi­sion news channels said Ke­jri­wal had left the coun­try on a pri­vate fam­ily trip to Dubai, trig­ger­ing a back­lash on so­cial me­dia and fin­ger point­ing on Twit­ter by the Delhi arm of In­dia’s gov­ern­ing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the party of Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi. “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,” said one Twit­ter user.

A mem­ber of Ke­jri­wal’s party, the Aam Aadmi (Com­mon Man) Party (AAP), told Reuters that the chief min­is­ter was not in the city. He de­clined to elab­o­rate or be iden­ti­fied be­cause he is not au­tho­rized to speak to the me­dia. A city gov­ern­ment spokesman did not re­spond to tele­phone calls seek­ing com­ment. Nei­ther the gov­ern­ing party at fed­eral level nor the main op­po­si­tion are in power in the cap­i­tal, giv­ing them lit­tle in­cen­tive to co-op­er­ate with city au­thor­i­ties. En­vi­ron­men­tal ac­tivists say res­i­dents need to be more vo­cal about hold­ing po­lit­i­cal lead­ers to ac­count over the pol­lu­tion.

“Pub­lic pres­sure has to be much sharper and de­mand com­pli­ance. Direc­tions, poli­cies have been is­sued but strin­gent im­ple­men­ta­tion is needed,” said An­u­mita Roy­chowd­hury, an 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 fed­eral and lo­cal politi­cians the cover they need for fail­ing to ad­e­quately ad­dress the prob­lem.

The En­vi­ron­ment Pol­lu­tion (Pre­ven­tion and Con­trol) Author­ity has banned all con­struc­tion ac­tiv­ity and or­dered use of sprin­klers in the city un­til Nov. 10, among other mea­sures. Yes­ter­day, it in­di­cated the mea­sures would be ex­tended un­til Mon­day. The city gov­ern­ment has banned heavy ve­hi­cles from en­ter­ing Delhi un­til Sun­day and it was not clear if that or­der would be ex­tended. It had also urged driv­ers to avoid us­ing pri­vate diesel-pow­ered ve­hi­cles, but there has been no ban. — Reuters

NEW DELHI: Mo­torists are seen along a busy road amid heavy smog in New Delhi. —AFP

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