NEW DELHI: Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal and his Haryana counterpart ML Khattar today said they had cordial and fruitful talks on the issue of steps to be taken to reduce crop residue burning and vehicular pollution.
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"We the chief ministers of Delhi and Haryana are happy to have had a very fruitful meeting at Chandigarh today. We recognised our deep and shared concern over the recent episode of heavy smog in our National Capital Region. We agreed upon the need for action on many measures aimed at preventing its re-occurrence in the winter of 2018," said a joint statement issued after the meeting.
Khattar said that that while he is concerned about air in all of northern India, Delhi's pollution should be of special concern because it is "after the national capital".
"It (Delhi) is the country's capital so we should all make all efforts to remedy the situation," said Khattar in a joint media briefing with Kejriwal after their meeting.
"We had a very positive discussion, we will take all steps possible to tackle the situation," said Kejriwal.
"They gave us suggestions that there are some stretches, like for example Delhi-Gurgaon has only one road stretch and if the Dwarka bypass can be expedited, likewise Badarpur- Ashram stretch...," Kejriwal said touching upon the steps that can be taken to decongest traffic and bring down pollution caused by vehicles.
"I believe that message should go out that at the top level whatever steps are needed to be taken we are ready to take those steps. This is an indication to governments of both the states that strict steps should be taken to curb pollution," he added.
During the discussions, the two sides agreed that "serious health risks to which such episodes of smog expose one and all require concrete and quick action on a number of fronts.," reported PTI.
Earlier in the day, Kejriwal was greeted by protesting Congress and Akali Dal workers when he arrived at Chandigarh airport today en route to a meeting with Haryana's BJP CM to discuss crop residue burning which has exacerbated pollution in the national capital.
Haryana's neighbouring Congress government in
Punjab is fighting with Kejriwal on the issue of crop residue
+ burning which is leading to hazardous smog in many parts of northern India. Amarinder refused to meet Kejriwal on his Chandigarh trip despite the former's request.
.@capt_amarinder Sir, I am coming to Chandigarh on Wed to meet Haryana CM. Would be grateful if u cud spare sometim… https://t.co/rQhNwIvaUB— Arvind Kejriwal (@ArvindKejriwal) 1510632121000
Ergo, Congress workers, joined by Akali Dal workers, today gathered to protest what they believe is unfair targeting by Kejriwal of Punjab's role in the pollution.
Punjab's CM Amarinder Singh has consistently said that the state's farmers cannot afford to dispose of crop residue any other way than by burning.
To be sure, pollution levels in Delhi-NCR are up not just to due to burning of crop residue by Haryana and Punjab. Dust due to large-scale construction, vehicle emissions and polluting industries are also responsible. A drop in temperatures combined with a rise in crop residue burning has exacerbated the situation.
"The sheer cost involved in...managing the huge amount of paddy straw left behind every season is mind-boggling and simply out of the reach of the farmers. And, unfortunately, the state government also lacks the funds needed to take on such an onerous task," wrote Singh in an article exclusively for TOI.
Kejriwal's contention is "let's at least talk"; he can't understand why Amarinder isn't even willing to discuss the issue that has become a huge health hazard for not just Delhi-NCR residents but also for residents of Haryana and Punjab.
Haryana's BJP government responded - albeit belatedly and likely to show up Amarinder - to Kejriwal's entreaties for discussions.
Khattar ji called. He is in Del till tomo. Says he is v busy n can't meet me in Del. He has asked me to come to Cha… https://t.co/6twUjle7r9— Arvind Kejriwal (@ArvindKejriwal) 1510578101000
Today, Khattar and Kejriwal met for over an hour.
Haryana CM @mlkhattar welcoming Delhi CM @ArvindKejriwal at his camp office in chandigarh. https://t.co/45jKlbn4XH— AAP (@AamAadmiParty) 1510728694000
Kejriwal said a day before the trip that he looked forward to a "fruitful" discussion.
Myself, Del Env Minister n Env Secy on our way to Haryana to discuss issues related to pollution with Hon'ble CM of… https://t.co/tfqBkBEx80— Arvind Kejriwal (@ArvindKejriwal) 1510715605000
It's unclear whether anything concrete will emerge from the discussion. After all, Khattar's party colleague and Union minister for environment said things could be much worse in Delhi.
Read this story in Bengali
Filthy air is no cause for alarm, says India's environment minister. Says current pollution in Delhi is much bett… https://t.co/3le06BgyAy— AFP news agency (@AFP) 1510647200000
The environment minister contrasted - favourably - the pollution choking large swathes of northern India with the 1984 gas leak in Bhopal that killed at least 25,000 people, reported AFP.
Read this story in Gujarati
(With inputs from PTI)