The Supreme Court constituted a committee under former judge M B Lokur to monitor stubble burning in Uttar Pradesh, Punjab and Haryana in wake of rising air pollution in the Delhi-National Capital Region (NCR). The one-man committee would be assisted by the chief secretaries of the concerned states.
The apex court noted that the citizens of the NCR have the ‘right to breathe’ and there needs to be some monitoring of stubble burning before it assumes unhealthy proportions.
A three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice of India SA Bobde ordered that all the concerned authorities in Delhi and Environment Pollution (Prevention & Control) Authority will report to the Justice Lokur Committee.
The court was hearing a plea filed by two environment activists calling for a complete ban on stubble burning in Punjab and Haryana.
The SC also said National Cadet Corps, Bharat Scouts and Guides and National Service Scheme can be deployed for assisting the Lokur Committee in the monitoring of stubble burning in the agricultural areas in the states.
“We trust that the authorities in charge shall place them at the disposal of the Lokur Committee for this purpose. In addition, we direct that the teams already in existence in Punjab & Haryana meant for preventing stubble burning shall report to & take instructions from the Lokur Committee,” said the Court.
The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) has already deployed 50 teams across five states to keep a check on air pollution. The teams would be doing field visits from October 15 this year till February 28 next year. CPCB officials said the teams would report any incident of stubble burning and dust mismanagement and the concerned authorities in the respective area will take penal action.
Stubble burning is one of the major causes of air quality worsening in the NCR during the winter season. Data from System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting And Research (SAFAR) under the Ministry of Earth Sciences showed that the share of stubble burning in PM2.5 of Delhi-NCR was 1 per cent on October 14, and rose to 6 per cent in October 15, this paper reported on Thursday.
Additionally, the CPCB believes the weather conditions could worsen the air quality further in the coming days. The apex pollution control body said compared to last year during September-October when there were seven rainy days with 121 mm rain, this year there were three days of barely 21 mm rain.
“Meteorological conditions have been extremely unfavourable in September and October this year as compared to the corresponding period last year,” said CPCB on Friday during a press conference.
The CPCB officials said as the temperature dips, there is a likelihood that air quality will not be as bad as last year. Last year, firecrackers burning during the festive season of Diwali coincided with stubble burning in October last week. However, this year Diwali is on November 14.
“Harvest of the kharif crop and stubble burning has started earlier than normal this year. The peak of stubble fires may not coincide with the most adverse meteorological conditions this year. We are hoping that the peak contribution from fires reduces by the time minimum temperature starts falling significantly and before Diwali,” said Prashant Gargava, member secretary, CPCB.
The CPCB also pointed out that there are fewer vehicles on the road as work from home continues for many, though the personal vehicle traffic would be higher as citizens are avoiding public transport due to Coronavirus pandemic.