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HC Issues Directions To Delhi, Neighboring States To Check Air Pollution Though Crop Burning [Read Order]

Apoorva Mandhani
25 Sep 2017 5:53 AM GMT
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The Delhi High Court, on Friday, issued a slew of directions to the States of Delhi, Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh, highlighting the urgency of the need to check air pollution arising out of crop burning.

The Court had taken suo motu cognizance of the deteriorating air quality in the Capital and the National Capital Region (NCR). During a recent hearing, the Bench comprising Justice S. Ravindra Bhat and Justice Sunil Gaur noted that a major component contributing to air pollution in Delhi during the months of October and March each year is the burning of agricultural waste, including plant residue/stubble while harvesting the Kharif and Rabi crops.

The Bench further took into account the affidavits filed by the States, noting that the “emission of particulate matter from this stubble burning is beyond any acceptable human endurance, or “danger‟ levels”.

It then issued the following directions, opining that the effects of such practice can be “traumatic for most people and catastrophic for some”:

“1. All the States shall implement the respective notifications and directions issued by them under the Air Pollution Act banning the burning of crop residue/paddy straw strictly, in letter and in spirit.

  1. Reports of the prosecutions launched/implementations for preventing burning of agricultural waste will be filed in this Court every week w.e.f. 01.10.2017.

  2. The State Governments are to issue directions/orders to all the companies/plants including biomass plants, cement plants and power generation plants and public undertakings involved in the manufacturing of boards and rough paper, to discharge their corporate social responsibility by collecting the crop residue from the fields of farmers by providing them with money as consideration for lifting the agricultural residue. The implementation of the aforesaid directions/order would not entail any cost or financial dependence of the States on the Central Government to prevent stubble burning and consequential severe air pollution.

  3. The authorities of each State will strictly implement the Graded Response Action Plan issued under the Notification dated 12.01.2017.

  4. The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change will obtain weekly reports from the Special Committees established by each of these States on the steps taken in the concerned States to prevent burning of agricultural waste/stubble.

  5. The Union of India will monitor the sites where agricultural waste is found to have been burnt by satellite tracking for monitoring/study of weather, i.e. update Satellite Imagery in terms of inputs from the Centre/Government/MoEF and Climate change.

  6. It has been mentioned that in Punjab – specifically the District Collector, Sagrur; District Collector, Patiala; District Collector, Karnal; Chief Secretary, Punjab; Chief Secretary, NCT of Delhi; District Collector, Muzaffarnagar; Managing Director, NTPC; Secretary (S&T) and Joint Secretary (MoNRE) will share their inputs and experiences on biomass management in their respective districts and sectors.

  7. This initiative which is being followed in these districts can be immediately replicated in other districts in the other States.

  8. The states concerned, especially those having locales where smog formation is most likely, are to inform members of the public, the protective measures to be taken by them to safeguard their health. These measures include, but are not confined to weather, smog/smoke forecasts, wherever particulate matter is likely to concentrate highest, any day, or during any part of any day, to appraise the populace and general public through electronic mass media appeals and broadcasts, the other preventive measures to be taken, such as availability of gas masks, etc, when the concentration levels are alarmingly high, making available such protective gear, in advance to those public personnel who are likely to be vulnerable, such as police, watch and ward staff, workers exposed to the elements, etc.”

The Court has directed the States and the Centre to file brief affidavits disclosing the measures taken to comply with the order. It has further ordered the Delhi government, Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, local bodies of Delhi and the National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC) to file status reports with respect to the latest position regarding enhancement of capacity of waste-to-energy power plants, the provision for fresh sites to accommodate waste disposal through landfills etc. and the steps taken so far with respect to solid waste management and disposal.

The matter has been listed for further directions on 16 October.

Read the Order Here

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