Stop stubble burning right now: SC to states

Gurugram, Nov 07 (ANI): A traffic policeman manages traffic while wearing a mask amidst a thick layer of smog as the air quality goes down to the 'Very poor' category amid the rising air pollution, in Gurugram on Tuesday. (ANI Photo)

Keeping in view the alarmingly high pollution levels in Delhi-NCR, the Supreme Court on Tuesday directed Punjab, Haryana, UP and Rajasthan governments to stop stubble burning. The court stressed that there should be no continuous political confrontation over this issue and sought immediate action to address stubble burning, stating, “We want it (stubble burning) stopped. We don’t know how you do it, it’s your job. But it must be stopped. Something has to be done immediately.”

Supreme court’s observations came a day after the Delhi government announced its decision to implement odd-even traffic restriction plan from November 13, a day after Diwali, when pollution levels are likely to shoot up even further, while hearing a matter pertaining to the debilitating air pollution in the Delhi-National Capital Region (NCR), the bench flagged issues like crop residue burning, vehicular pollution and burning of waste in the open.

The bench comprising Justices Sanjay Kishan kaul and Sudhanshu Dhulia will commence hearing on this issue on Friday again. The court instructed Punjab, Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, and Rajasthan to cease stubble burning “forthwith” and assigned the responsibility of overseeing the implementation of this order to the respective chief secretaries and director generals of police.

Furthermore, the Supreme Court expressed its disapproval of both the central and state governments for engaging in a “blame game” regarding the problem of air pollution in Delhi. The court stressed the severity of the situation as the air quality in the national capital and neighbouring states continued to deteriorate.

As of Tuesday, Delhi’s air quality was classified as “very poor”, having improved from the “severe” category of the previous days. Data from the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) indicated an overall air quality index (AQI) of 394 for the city at 9 am.

Nevertheless, some parts of Delhi still recorded ‘severe’ AQI, such as Okhla (412), Patparganj (404), and Anand Vihar (882) at 9 am. The Supreme Court also issued directives to all states and Union Territories to comply with its orders regarding the ban on firecrackers during Diwali and at other times of the year. On November 6, despite the severe air quality indices in Delhi and neighbouring states, Punjab reported over 2,000 farm fires.

According to data from the Ludhiana-based Punjab Remote Sensing Centre, the total number of such cases in Punjab alone reached 19,463 as of Monday. Punjab minister Harpal Singh Cheema on Monday held BJP-ruled states of Haryana and Uttar Pradesh accountable for the majority of stubble-burning incidents, asserting that such incidents were on the decline in Punjab.