Environment ministers skip meeting on air pollution

Environment ministers skip meeting on air pollution

Union minister Harsh Vardhan. PTI File Photo

Environment ministers of Haryana, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan skipped a crucial meeting called by Union minister Harsh Vardhan on Thursday to discuss measures that could stop further deterioration of air quality in the National Capital Region.

Instead of the environment ministers, senior officials from the states joined the meeting.

Delhi Environment Minister Imran Hussain was the only state minister to attend the meeting. He later told reporters that the neighbouring states of Delhi should also show seriousness in curbing the increasing air pollution in the national capital.

The air quality is expected to deteriorate further around Diwali due to local factors and regional causes such as stubble burning, mainly in Punjab and Haryana.

Delhi's air quality was on the brink of turning severe Thursday. The overall air quality index was recorded at 393, only seven points shy of falling in the severe category.

The Uttar Pradesh government has asked its western districts, close to NCR, to suspend all construction activities between November 1 and 10 and shut for a week industry using coal and biomass fuel to check a rise in air pollution.

Vardhan, the Union environment minister, said the issue of air pollution should not be "politicised" and everyone should give their full cooperation to protect the environment.

He flagged off 52 teams which would monitor violations that may result in rise in air pollution in Delhi.

On Wednesday, the Central Pollution Control Board directed state pollution control bodies of Punjab, Haryana and Delhi to start criminal prosecution against agencies or individuals who do not comply with directives to check air pollution.