The National Green Tribunal on Wednesday asked Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh to file status reports on actions taken by the respective state governments to stop crop burning.
Agricultural fires in the fields of neighbouring states, particularly Punjab and Haryana, are a major contributor to the deteriorating air quality of Delhi.
A bench headed by NGT chairperson Justice Swatanter Kumar on Wednesday came down heavily on the three states after fresh incidents of summer-crop burning were brought to its notice on Wednesday.
“Let them file an affidavit saying how many machines have been purchased with complete details, the farmers who received the machines either freely or against a nominal charge, where was the crop residue being treated and the quantity of biomass produced,” the bench directed.
The counsel of Punjab claimed that the state has distributed at least 600 machines for sowing wheat without any burning of rice residue and at least R 86 crore have been spent on the machines.
The bench, however, lashed out at him saying, “It is a plain and simple lie. Everybody is a foul person. Show us the investment proof. Bring in the farmers who received the machines.”
The NGT’s order came on a plea by environmentalist Vikrant Tongad who had sought a ban on burning of agricultural waste and remnants in open fields.
The pollution caused by these fires travel to Delhi because of the westerly winds, causing major health concerns among people, say environment experts.
Apart from the lungs, the smoke also affects the brain, eyes and the nervous system, say doctors.
A study by IIT Kanpur has listed stubble burning as the third highest contributor to Delhi’s winter air-pollution, after construction dust and vehicular fumes.
The green court had earlier fixed the environment compensation amounts per incident of crop burning to be paid by small land owners having less than two acres of land at R 2,500, medium land owners holding over two acres and less than five acres at R 5,000 and those owning over five acres at R 15,000.
It had also directed the state governments to take coercive and punitive action against persistent defaulters of crop residue burning and asked them to withdraw the assistance provided to such farmers.
It had said that the five states -- Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Haryana and Delhi -- which have issued notifications prohibiting agriculture crop residue burning should ensure that these are enforced rigorously and proper action is taken against the defaulters.
The Supreme Court-appointed Environment Pollution Prevention and Control Authority (EPCA) in April had also expressed concern over the crop burning gaining pace in the northern region. The EPCA, which has been spearheading crucial anti-pollution measures, warned the state governments of the northern states to “stop being in denial” and get their act together.
According to satellite data, as pointed out by EPCA, the agricultural landscape of Punjab and Haryana is dotted with fires billowing out pollutant-laden smoke as farmers have set fire to the residues of the Rabi crop to usher in the Kharif season.