The National Green Tribunal (NGT) on Monday asked the Centre to take concrete steps to check burning of crop residues that result in choking smog spells, aggravating the already high pollution levels in Delhi.
The tribunal asked the ministry of environment and forests (MoEF) to issue directions under the Environment Protection Act, 1986 as “mere advisories are not going to help.”
“The agriculture ministry submitted a new national policy on crop residue management which is at best merely a set of advisories,” said environment lawyer Rahul Choudhary.
The policy also does not seem to have paid heed to NGT’s earlier order which sought to know the modalities and a time frame for implementing the guidelines.
India produces 500 million tonnes (MT) of crop residues annually. Uttar Pradesh tops the chart with 60 MT followed by Punjab (51 MT) — both are Delhi’s neighbours. Uttar Pradesh burns up to 13 MT of crop residues.
Pollution-control expert Anumita Roychowdhury said, “Every year, October onwards, winter pollution starts setting in. It’s a seasonal issue, and states should be proactive and take steps to check such pollution.”
Smoke particles billowing from burning of paddy stubble in farms between late October and early November move to Delhi — depending on wind direction — and remain in the air because of low winter wind speed.
The situation is aggravated when haze mixes with Delhi’s massive vehicular pollution.
The policy says the use of crop residues in power generation, brick production, packaging of fruits and vegetables, besides composting and mushroom cultivation should be promoted.
The policy says farmers should be trained, and laws implemented. Satellite-based monitoring should be used to track burning of crop remnants.
The NGT recently flayed the ministry of agriculture for preparing guidelines without consulting the environment ministry.
“We must notice it with regret that there was no corporation on such national issues. It has to be more effective and result oriented,” the NGT had said.
This was after the tribunal had, in March, lambasted the agriculture ministry for failing to prepare “composite and complete guidelines”.
The NGT then expressed “serious reservations” and termed “most unsatisfactory” a report submitted by the ministry. Giving “one last chance”, the tribunal had sought an action plan by November 10. The NGT will now hear the matter on November 19.