The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government released an image by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) depicting a large number of stubble burning incidents in the states of Punjab and Haryana.
This has coincided with a sudden surge in the air pollution levels in Delhi. As per news agency PTI, the overall Air Quality Index (AQI) was 275 that falls in the ‘poor’ category and is on the verge of going down into the ‘very poor’ category.
NCR regions of Ghaziabad, Greater Noida and Loni Dehat have already crossed the 300 mark and have thus fallen into the ‘very poor’ air quality category.
However, this is nothing new for Delhi. Kuldeep Srivastava, head, regional weather forecasting centre had elaborated upon this issue last month and said, “At this time of the year, easterly and south-easterly winds blow in Delhi. But, by October 15, the wind directions change. Westerly and north-westerly winds that blow from Punjab and Haryana are not strong enough to blow away the pollution particles.”
Last year, a System of Air Quality Forecasting And Research (SAFAR), a Centre-run body had released a report according to which stubble burning in the states of Punjab and Haryana makes 32 per cent contribution to Delhi’s overall pollution. Therefore, the change in wind direction coupled with post-harvest farm residue burning in Punjab and Haryana makes Delhi vulnerable to increased pollution levels. This year too, Delhi and NCR seem set to face a public health crisis on account of unbearable high pollution levels.
The Punjab and Haryana governments have come under fire for not tackling the issue of stubble burning appropriately even though a 2015 NGT order had banned stubble burning in Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, and Punjab.
The act of burning crop is an offence under both the IPC and the Air and Pollution Control Act, 1981, Punjab CM Amarinder Singh and Haryana CM Manohar Lal Khattar have sought to abdicate their responsibility of curbing stubble burning in the state.
Amarinder Singh has proposed that the Centre should pay Rs 100 more per quintal to the farmers to stop stubble burning. This is rather preposterous and gives a rather bleak signal on the part of the Punjab CM.
With this, he has suggested that the state government has given up on this issue and has placed the onus on the centre to tackle this issue.
The careless attitude of farmers is another reason that encourages stubble burning. Farmers still rely on fire to get rid of the leftover stubble and loose straw after paddy is harvested.
It must be noted that 18,000 machines have been purchased with the assistance of around Rs 1,150 crore extended by the Centre to Punjab and Haryana governments.
These machines are meant to convert stubble into manure that is expected to put an end to the practice of burning crop residue in the coming weeks.
The centre has therefore played its part and given the necessary impetus to the Punjab and Haryana governments to check stubble burning. By refusing to bring about a change in the ground level situation and making it incumbent upon the Centre to take further measures, Singh is only trying to run away from his responsibilities.
It must be noted that the states have a number of options to manage the emergent situation, while it is true that the states of Haryana and Punjab cannot fine farmers for stubble burning by virtue of a Punjab and Haryana High Court verdict, the fact remains that the states can still make provisions for storing stubble at alternate locations such as forest land.
In the long run, the states will have to move towards solid waste management and focus towards establishing the necessary infrastructure for making organic and compost manure to tackle stubble burning.
Ideally, they should have already moved in that direction given that Delhi has been encountering deterioration on an annual basis due to burning of farm residue for the past few years. As such, the solution given by the Punjab CM seems to lack permanence and efficacy on the face of it. That being said, it is time for Punjab and Haryana to act rather than expect the Centre to tackle the issue on its own.