"People are not safe even inside their house", SC on pollution in NCR; orders a stop to stubble burning
As the air quality in Delhi-NCR hovered between "severe" and "very poor" category, a review of pollution in northern India by the Centre on Tuesday found no let up in crop stubble burning in Punjab and Haryana notwithstanding the clampdown by the Supreme Court to combat toxic air.
The pollution situation was also reviewed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, a day after the Supreme Court ordered an immediate and complete stop to stubble burning in Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh blamed for 46 per cent of the pollution in Delhi-National Capital Region(NCR).
Punjab reported the winter season's highest farm fire count at 6,668 as farmers defied the apex court order.
According to satellite data collected by Punjab Remote-Sensing Centre, Sangrur and Bathinda were the worst-affected districts with the highest number of farm fire incidents of 1,007 and 945 on a single day, respectively.
Small growers were of the view that it was economically unviable for them to buy farm machinery like happy seeder, rotavators, super straw management system on combine harvesters etc.
"PM Narendra Modi chaired a meeting in which the situation arising due to pollution in various parts of northern India was discussed," the Prime Minister's Office(PMO) tweeted.
The meet on pollution followed back-to-back review meetings held by P K Mishra, the principal secretary to the prime minister, with top officials of Delhi, Punjab and Haryana on Sunday and Monday.
The review meeting by Cabinet Secretary Rajiv Gauba found that crop stubble burning in Punjab and Haryana still continues.
The states have been asked to take violators to task by imposing penalties, a statement from the PMO said.
"It was observed that the cases of crop stubble burning in Punjab and Haryana still continues and that there is a need for more focussed action," the statement said.
The states have now been directed that more monitoring teams should be deployed on the field to ensure that the "violators are taken to task by imposing suitable penalties", it added.
Miffed at the deterioration in air quality in Delhi over the past few days, the Supreme Court on Monday called the chief secretaries of three states - Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh--to appear in person on Wednesday to report to it on the matter. The apex court on Tuesday also summoned the Delhi Chief Secretary.
As authorities considered various options to put an end to stubble burning, a top Agriculture ministry official mooted crop diversification and shift to a short duration paddy crop to reduce the problem.
Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel said conversion of stubble to fertilisers can be a permanent solution while All India Bhartiya Kisan Union Coordinator Yudhvir Singh suggested the Centre should take the paddy stubble from Punjab and distribute it as animal feed to 3 lakh stray cattle in Uttar Pradesh,
Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar told the state Assembly that the government was giving facilities to farmers so that they don't burn stubble.
We distributed 10,000 machines last year while 15,000 machines have been distributed this year, on which we are giving 80 per cent subsidy."
He said setting fire to crop residues was responsible only for 18-20 per cent of the pollution problem, adding incidents of crop burning in Haryana have significantly come down over the past few days and the situation was much better now.
As per NASA satellite imagery and Haryana Space Applications Centre, the (stubble burning) problem looks very little in Haryana, he said.
Several opposition members including Leader of Opposition Bhupinder Singh Hooda said in the name of pollution, farmers were being blamed and defamed.
"The AQI is back to 'very poor' category after rapidly recovering from 'severe' largely due to faster boundary layer winds (40 kmph)." said the Ministry of Earth Sciences' air quality monitor, SAFAR.
According to the Central Pollution Control Board, Delhi's air quality index dropped from 365 at 9.45 am to 331 at 3.45 pm on Tuesday.
In the NCR, Greater Noida (348), Noida (358), Ghaziabad (351), Faridabad (311) and Gurgaon (328) also recorded improvement in air quality.
An AQI between 0-50 is considered 'good', 51-100 'satisfactory', 101-200 'moderate', 201-300 'poor', 301-400 'very poor' and 401-500 'severe'. An AQI above 500 falls in the 'severe plus' category.
National Rainfed Area Authority (NRAA) CEO Ashok Dalwai said state governments should educate farmers to shift to non-paddy crops by providing some incentives
"One solution is to grow short-duration paddy varieties. If we are able to harvest by September, then farmers will get a longer window to undertake proper harvesting and prepare the land for wheat sowing," Dalwai told PTI.
At present, the window for paddy harvesting is around 20-25 days, putting pressure on farmers to get rid of the crop residue and prepare the land for sowing wheat, he said, adding, "On top of it, they are facing a labour shortage."
Since Punjab has low groundwater levels and paddy being a water-guzzling crop, Dalwai said, "It is better we shift from paddy cultivation and grow more water-efficient crops like oilseeds and maize. That would solve the problem."
He also said short-duration varieties of non-paddy crops should be encouraged as the concern for farmers in Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh is to prepare the land for winter wheat.
Dalwai, also chairman of the Committee on Doubling of Farmers' Income, further said: "We can easily shift from paddy in wheat-growing states as paddy can be grown in many other areas in the country.
(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)