National Green Tribunal has come down heavily on the Central Government and State Governments of Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh for failing to stop crop residue burning, leading to Air Pollution in the NCR region.
A bench led by Chairperson Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel said the bench has been monitoring the situation and remedial measures regularly. "Even in five years if the State machinery is not able to communicate to the concerned farmers the techniques of sowing crops without burning of the crop residue of the paddy, it is an unhappy situation which needs to be remedied."
The bench expressed displeasure over the government's failure in taking any tangible action to stop violations. It said "The Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981 provides for prohibiting burning of any material which is likely to cause air pollution and enforcing such prohibition in an appropriate manner including prosecution and recovery of compensation. Air pollution has adverse consequences on public health. Pollution free environment is right of every citizen and obligation of every State. This being the legal position, stand of the Central Government and the States that they are helpless is unacceptable."
The bench reminded the state governments to enforce Air Pollution law it said "Just like enforcing law to prevent other crimes, the State has to own responsibility to enforce law to prevent pollution. The States are not doing this effectively. The States must take appropriate action against failure of its officers for preventing pollution caused by crop burning in such manner as may be appropriate. The strategy may be creating awareness, giving incentives or taking punitive action. It is unfortunate that the State have failed to perform to perform its duty and have merely pleaded helplessness on the ground that whatever action was possible have been taken.
After going through the compliance reports filed by the authorities the bench said "Inspite of efforts said to have been made by the Central Government and the State Governments, on the ground level burning of crop is still taking place with all its adverse consequences on public health and environment for which no officer/authority is being held accountable,"
Directions were given to the Union and State governments to on a daily basis update their websites giving data of fire incidents, responsible officers for the subject for the entire areas and action taken for the failures on daily basis.
"It is clear that steps taken are inadequate and do not provide for ground checking and vigilance and extinguishing of illegal fires.Preventive remedies of communicating with the farmers the disadvantages of burning are also unsatisfactory and ineffective. There is no effective incentive mechanism," it said.
Tribunal asked the government to take effective steps which include successful communication with the farmers, effective prevention of fires, supply of suitable equipment without unbearable cost for the farmer, change of crop patterns, use of labour by Panchayats under Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme, purchase of crop residue for fuel or composting and fixing accountability of officers for the failure," to stop violations.
As per statistics, 25-30% air pollution in NCR is caused by burning of crop residue in and around Delhi in October and November every year. Air pollution outside NCR is also a matter of concern. It is reported that burning of crop residue takes places as time gap between the reaping of the paddy crop and the sowing of the next crop is too less. Since the crop is harvested by machines, residue is left and manual removal thereof is time and labour consuming.
Burning of the crop residue is perceived to be helpful in preparing the field for sowing next crop. The fact remains that there is adverse impact of burning of such residue on air quality causing air pollution related diseases which at times may be fatal. As per newspaper reports, to which reference will be made later, 15000 deaths took place in the year 2016 in the NCR region on account of air pollution.