Stubble burning: NGT directs Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh to keep daily tab on air pollution

[dropcap]T[/dropcap]HE National Green Tribunal (NGT) has directed the Chief Secretaries of Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh to constitute special cells to review the air pollution levels on a daily basis for the next one month, including on holidays. The panel directed to finalise a monitoring mechanism by October 7 in the wake of paddy straw burning.

The NGT panel headed by chairperson Justice AK Goel passed the order in a plea filed by Ganga Lalwani for remedial action to prevent burning of crop residue that leads to air pollution in the NCR region.

Referring to the statistics report, placed before it, the panel noted that 25-30% air pollution in NCR is caused by burning of crop residue in and around Delhi in October and November every year.

On October 12, 2015, the Principal Bench of the Tribunal in the Vikrant Kumar Tongad v Environment Pollution (Prevent and Control Authority) & Ors directed the Central Government to ensure that farmers will be provided with equipment and financial help for the degradation of the crop residual in an eco-friendly manner.

The matter was then reviewed by the tribunal on July 23, 2018 where it noted that the scheme of the Central Government – Promotion of Agriculture Mechanization for In-Situ Management of Crop Residue – provides assistance by way of machinery, finances and information. The NGT panel had also directed the Ministry of Agriculture to monitor the situation, and the Chief Secretaries of Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and Delhi to review the situation at their level.

The tribunal also held a meeting on September 5, 2018 with the members of the tribunal, representatives of Central Pollution Control Board, Ministries of Agriculture, Road Transport and Highways, Petroleum and Natural Gas, Heavy Industries, Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change and representatives of the States of Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, NCT of Delhi, apart from the nominees of the Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi, Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur and NEERI. The suggestions which were considered after the meeting included:

  1. Those who help the environment by not burning the crop deserve incentives and those who do not do so, deserve disincentive,
  2. CRM machines shall be provided to the farmers timely, and
  3. To set up decentralised compositing to convert crop residue into organic manure.

The NGT panel has also directed the Joint Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture, Government of India and Secretaries (Agriculture) of the states of Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh to appear before the panel with the status report on the next date of hearing that is fixed to be on October 15.