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Give publicity to task force's report on pollution: SC to govt

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Press Trust of India New Delhi
The Supreme Court today asked the Centre to give publicity to the report of a high-level task force on prevention of stubble burning in states like Punjab and Haryana to make people aware that "something is being done".

A bench comprising justices Madan B Lokur and Deepak Gupta told the Centre that the programme related to prevention of air pollution, including stubble burning, cannot be limited to the National Capital Region (NCR).

"Everybody should be aware that something is being done. There can be changes and improvements. You cannot have a programme for Delhi-NCR only. All the information has to be disseminated," the bench told Additional Solicitor General (ASG) A N S Nadkarni, representing the Centre.

It said that the authorities must have the willingness to change and referred to a newspaper report about pollution from dust arising out of construction activities.

"The problem may be much more than what is anticipated. Flexibility has to be there," the bench said.

During the hearing, advocate Aparajita Singh, assisting the court as an amicus curiae, referred to the suggestions given by the apex court-mandated Environment Pollution Control Authority (EPCA) to the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEF) on the issue.

Referring to the EPCA's suggestions, the amicus said that the system to manage the straw of crops should be advertised and it should also include the details about the health impact on the people, including the farmers and their children.

Singh said that the EPCA has suggested involvement of local bodies in the process of preventing stubble burning and use of satellite imagery to monitor it.

"It should be an ongoing process and should not be treated as a problem for Punjab or Haryana only. This has to cover the whole country," the amicus said.

Meanwhile, the ASG said that he would forward the EPCA's suggestions to the high-level task force for consideration.

On the issue of pollution from dust, the ASG said the authorities have taken appropriate steps in this regard.

The amicus told the bench that the Delhi government has done nothing to check the pollution caused due to dust from construction activities.

The bench said it expected the task force would adhere to timelines fixed by it and ensure compliance of the directions to check the pollution level.

The Centre had last week told the court that report of a sub-committee on prevention of stubble burning in Punjab, Haryana and western Uttar Pradesh was accepted by the task force constituted by it.

On November 23 last year, a task force for management of air pollution in Delhi-NCR, comprising experts and senior officials of various departments, was constituted by the Cabinet Secretariat.

The government had said that it has been decided that the MoEF would be the nodal ministry for implementation of the report of the sub-committee on stubble burning.

The apex court had on December 13 last year asked the Centre whether it has looked into the aspect of economic loss due to the health hazards caused by severe air pollution in Delhi-NCR.

The court had raised the question while referring to the MoEF affidavit which had said that a task force has been constituted to look into the issue of stubble burning and to explore various options for discouraging farmers from burning crop residues.

Last year, a petition was filed in the apex court raising the issue of severe air pollution in the Delhi-NCR including large-scale stubble burning in neighbouring states like Haryana and Punjab.

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First Published: Jan 29 2018 | 7:45 PM IST

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