India's environment minister blames state governments as pollution worsens in Delhi

An under-construction building is shrouded in smog in New Delhi, India, November 1, 2018. REUTERS/Anushree Fadnavis

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - India’s environment minister blamed the Delhi government and its neighboring states for failing in their efforts to check air pollution which was six times above the recommended limit on Thursday, posing severe health risks.

The minister, Harsh Vardhan, said in a statement that efforts by state governments, including Punjab and Haryana, to bring down incidents of widespread crop burning were “far from satisfactory”.

“In Punjab only daily cases of stubble burning were still running into thousands,” the minister said, adding the overall incidents of crop burning were down 30 percent from the previous year.

India has aimed to reduce stubble burning that is a major source of pollution during the winter months by 70 percent in its top two farm states this year, a top government official said last week, but experts questioned whether the target was credible.

The minister also blamed the Delhi city government for falling short of meeting its targets to rein in pollution from construction activities, open dumping or the burning of waste, including industrial waste, traffic congestion and road dust.

Delhi was also headed for a “deadly cocktail” of pollution in the coming weeks as a major Hindu festival of Diwali on Nov. 7 - during which many fireworks are usually let off - would coincide with crop burning.

Reporting by Neha Dasgupta and Mayank Bhardwaj; Edited by Martin Howell and David Evans

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