India giving top priority to pollution problem, diplomats assured

Following deep concerns expressed by the diplomatic community over the bad pollution levels in the national capital, the government on Friday said that "top priority" is being accorded to the matter and said the conditions are "not unique to India".

Chief of Protocol in the External Affairs Ministry, Sanjay Verma, told Frank Hans Dannenburg Castellanos, Dean of the Diplomatic Corps and the Ambassador of the Dominican Republic, during a meeting here: "I would like to assure you that the Government of India is giving this matter top priority.

"The conditions affecting us are historically not unique to India... These challenges are byproducts of rapid economic growth and development (that) are known to have affected several countries."

A statement issued here on Friday evening by Castellanos quoted Verma as saying that India was "committed to dealing with this issue, including learning from best practices emerging from countries that have traversed this experience".

Castellanos sought the meeting with the Ministry of External Affairs after being approached by many distressed diplomats who wanted to know what the Indian government was doing to alleviate the problem that had created choking conditions in the capital earlier this week.

Costa Rican Ambassador Mariela Alvarez, in fact, shifted to Bengaluru and said on Tuesday that she was suffering from upper respiratory infection.

According to Castellanos, Verma said that "the unusual deterioration in the quality of air is a product of multiple causes, most of which are indeed domestic, but have also been aggravated by a dust storm from a distant geography".

"The simultaneous aggregation of these cases has led us to an environmental challenge, which the government of India is determined to address and ameliorate," Verma said.

In his statement, Castellanos said that he thanked Verma "and we both hope that the outcome of the efforts of both central and local governments will bring rapid and positive results, not only for the diplomats living in India but also for every citizen, children and adults that live in this very active, energetic and busy city".

The Environment Pollution Control Authority (EPCA) and Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) researcher Usman Nasim told IANS on Thursday the pollution levels in the region could go up in the coming days due to climatic conditions.

"Pollution may increase in next few days due to withdrawal of north-west winds. As wind speed goes down, pollution levels may to go up. As per SAFAR (System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting And Research), AQI (air quality index) will remain 'very poor'," Nasim said.


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