New Delhi: The Supreme Court mandated Environment Pollution Control Authority (EPCA) on Friday held a meeting in Chandigarh with chief secretaries and other senior officials of Punjab and Haryana about crop residue burning.
With a World Health Organisation (WHO) report recently highlighting the large number of air pollution-led premature deaths and severe health impacts, agencies are trying to prevent the air pollution peak in November when paddy straw is burnt in Punjab and Haryana. EPCA directed the states to ensure “zero crop residue burning” this year.
“The state administrations are hereby directed to take action as per strategy outlines given, in order to ensure zero crop burning in the winter of 2016,” said a note on actions to be taken, released by EPCA.
“In order to ensure effective enforcement of the law, the states shall start imposing penalty and prosecution for all incidents of stubble burning through district level special teams,” the note read. EPCA also directed state governments to launch awareness campaigns before the paddy harvesting period, and asked state remote sensing agencies to stay vigilant.EPCA noted that the Punjab government had offered a subsidy on 67750 machines capable of disposing straw without burning, while Haryana had extended the subsidy to 1810 machines.
“This is not enough considering the production of paddy straw is 17 to 18 million tonnes in Punjab and 2 million tonnes in Haryana. This subsidy for agricultural equipment which will re-till the straw or bale it for use in energy and paper plants needs to be stepped up immediately,” said a Delhi government official. “The problem is that some of these equipment are very expensive. Balers, for instance, cost Rs 2 lakh. So deploying them on a large scale is a challenge for states,” he added.
EPCA urged that paddy straw be used for power generation. Traditionally, paddy straw burning is done in November and wheat residue burning in February. In both months, Delhi experiences extremely poor air quality.