It’s not even winter, but Delhi’s air quality has seen a drastic deterioration in the past few days. It touched the ‘very poor’ category on Monday.
This time, the India Meteorological Department said that the lack of rain was to blame. In the past, authorities have also cited crop burning as a reason for Delhi’s poor air and have claimed measures had been taken to curb crop burning during harvest season.
But crop residues are being burnt in Punjab and Haryana this month because of a late harvest season and also apparently because officials responsible for curbing crop burning are busy with elections!
The Indian Express quoted Kahan Singh Pannu, Punjab Agriculture Secretary, as saying, “Most of the officials who are responsible for implementing these orders are on election duty. How do we implement the orders… Awareness exercises have been undertaken and farmers told about the bad effects of burning crop residue.”
The problem of air pollution across northern India and crop burning have been passed around like a hot potato between authorities and administrations of different states. While government’s have come up with rules and regulations, implementation has been far from ideal.
However, even as crops were being burnt, Punjab Pollution Control Board (PPCB) chairman Satwinder Singh Marwaha told The Indian Express, “We are following it up with the Agriculture Department. There are fewer incidents of stubble burning this season as compared to the corresponding season last year.”
This comes even as The National Green Tribunal on Monday directed the Ministry of Agriculture to furnish a status report within two weeks on the steps taken to stop crop residue burning, which results in air pollution.
The tribunal directed the ministry to continue to monitor the preventive steps and furnish a status report on or before April 30. As per information, no such report has been received by the tribunal from the Ministry of Agriculture.
A bench headed by NGT Chairperson Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel asked the Agriculture Ministry to submit the report by e-mail.
“Before taking coercive measures, we give an opportunity to the Ministry of Agriculture to furnish its report within two weeks by e-mail at email@example.com, failing which we may have to enforce personal appearance of the secretary, Ministry of Agriculture, and take penal action, if necessary,” the bench said.
The tribunal directed that the report may be in terms of cumulative assessment of the problems and the remedies implemented and proposed.
The tribunal had earlier said there was a need to find a long-lasting solution for the problems of stubble burning and directed the chief secretaries of four states to appear before it to explain ways to prevent it.
The green panel was hearing the matter after taking note of a news report published in an English daily titled, “All fiddle as crop stubble burns, farmers say solutions out of reach.”
(With PTI inputs)