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Air Pollution: States brainstorm on emergency measures, to inform SC about decision

New Delhi, Nov 16 (IANS) The Commission for Air Quality Management (CAQM) for Delhi and its surrounding areas on Tuesday held a meeting with the chief secretaries, top police officers and officials from multiple agencies from the Centre and the states of Delhi-NCR to thrash out emergency measures in view of the severity of air pollution in the region.

However, the decision arrived at has been kept under wraps as the officials felt that it needs to be informed in the Supreme Court first before making it public.

The meeting was held as demanded by the Supreme Court that is hearing a petition filed by a minor resident of Delhi, who claimed that the severe air pollution is causing health hazards for him and other children.

Earlier, hearing the petition on Monday, the Supreme Court had reprimanded the Centre and the states, especially the Delhi government, for their failure to reign in air pollution that had reached hazardous levels last week, and is currently hovering around the 'severe' and 'very poor' levels.

The Supreme Court had even suggested a lockdown to cut down on emissions.

CAQM is a dedicated commission under the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, which looks at the air quality of Delhi, Rajasthan, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh, taking an air shed approach (just like watershed, air shed is the geographic area wherein meteorological factors influences the air quality within that area).

The CAQM summoned Punjab too owing to the multiple farm fires in the state leading to air pollutants travelling to Delhi.

The officials who were invited for the meeting included the chief secretaries of Delhi, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh, top officials of the Power Ministry, Ministry of Urban Development, Ministry of Transport, Delhi's PWD and Delhi Police.

Sources said that each of the participating states presented the status of pollution in their respective areas, and the measures they have taken and are further willing to take in case the court demanded stricter actions.

This included whether thermal plants around Delhi will be shut, ban on private vehicles and also the cases of stubble burning nearer to the national capital and possible action against the defaulters.

Police officials were invited to the meeting so that their role in enforcement of such bans can be ascertained, especially for stubble burning by the farmers.

"However, we have not yet been informed about the final decision taken by the CAQM top heads," said an official who attended the meeting.

Meanwhile, Environment Ministry officials remained tight-lipped and only confirmed that there was no court hearing on Tuesday and there is a likelihood that the apex court may hear the case further on Wednesday.