Members of the Lok Sabha expressed serious concern on the air quality in Delhi and several other cities in the country and called for a concerted action plan that includes tough timelines, maximum use of technology and support to farmers to stop stubble burning.
Members on Thursday expressed concern over the impact of air pollution on the health of children, with a member stating that he had decided against moving his children to Delhi for studies. The members also referred to ancient Indian texts which talk of living in harmony with nature.
BJP member Meenakshi Lekhi took a dig at the Arvind Kejriwal government over the money spent on advertisements and said the money should have been spent on fighting pollution.
Congress leader Shashi Tharoor said that the National Clean Air Programme (NCAP) launched by the government does not have legal measures "to penalise non-implementers" and said there was a need to bring a legislation to give the programme force of law.
Participating in the debate on air pollution in the Lok Sabha, Tharoor called for an action plan, which is courageous, ambitious, technology-based, collaborative and has tough deadlines. Terming pollution as a "national crisis", he said the nation cannot just be concerned about it after Diwali and winter months. Tharoor said he has been holding consultations with experts and civil society members about the toxic air quality.
The Congress leader said pollution was a national health issue and apart from huge economic cost, the adverse impact on the quality of life was incalculable. He said when he was a student in Delhi, September to February was the best months "but now they are the worst." The Congress member said a foreign journalist who left Delhi owing to pollution had called it "dire pediatric respiratory crisis." "This (pollution) makes many foreigners not come to the country," he said.
Tharoor said a study had shown that in school children of Delhi in the age group of 4 to 17, key indicators of lung functions were twice to four times worse than children in a better environment and these changes were not reversible. He also cited an instance of a diplomat, who was a non-smoker and had served in Delhi, who was asked by a doctor about how many cigarettes he smoked in a day. He said there should have been more public consultation while formulating policies to fight pollution. "In the NCAP, there are no legal measures to penalise non-implementers. If there is NCAP Act, it should have a force of law," he said.
Tharoor took a dig at the government and said the NCAP was launched towards the end of the tenure of the previous BJP-led government. He said there was a need to learn from China in the way it has tackled pollution and Beijing no longer competes with Delhi for the worst headlines on pollution.
He said there has been a sharp increase in Ozone-related deaths.
Lekhi said there were many problems in Delhi which need to be tackled.
"When our Chief Minister spends Rs 700 and odd crore on advertising his own face, that is not worth it. I think the worth-it effort should be, how do we deal with the C&D (construction and demolition) waste of Delhi? It is because when you look at the Delhi pollution, you find PM-2.5 particles, you find PM-10 particles in the air and there is the dust that we need to control. When I look at the dust, the thing which comes to my mind is that soil becomes dust when it loses its humus content," she said.
"As a city which is coming up and where people from across the country and the world land up, the facilities and amenities need to be provided. Unfortunately, we have seen disoriented urbanisation of the city," she added.
She said Aravali jungles has been cut and there was a need to work on that strategy.
BJP's Satya Pal Singh said everyone contributes to pollution in some ways and has a duty to check it. He said 'yagna' was a way to improve air quality.
Nationalist Congress Party's Supriya Sule said pollution was a growing problem and indicators were high even at places where there is no stubble burning. She said governments were not commodities and do not need to waste money on advertising.
"They do not need to market themselves. They are not a soap that they need to advertise. So, they could put all this money into controlling pollution. Why do we not all send a note to all the Governments that instead of wasting money on advertising, all the Central and State Governments should spend this money to improve all the social sector numbers?" she said. (ANI)