Brace for air pollution in Delhi as crop burning starts in neighbouring states
Agricultural stubble running into millions of tonnes is burnt by farmers in northern India every October. An estimated 35 million tonnes are set afire in Punjab and Haryana alone.
Winter’s coming, and Delhi’s annual nightmare is already taking shape beyond its borders.
Over a dozen cases of crop burning were reported from Haryana till Wednesday, and officials fear the number will rise drastically in the coming days. This, in turn, would trigger heavy pollution in the national capital region.
“We came across 14 confirmed cases of crop burning since September 22. While 12 cases occurred in Karnal on Wednesday, one instance each was reported from Panipat and Kaithal earlier,” said S Narayanan, member secretary of Haryana Pollution Control Board. Teams are sent to verify crop burning incidents as soon as fires show up on satellite images, he said.
Agricultural stubble running into millions of tonnes is burnt by farmers in northern India every October, before the onset of winter. An estimated 35 million tonnes are set afire in Punjab and Haryana alone to make room for the winter crop.
Experts say stubble burning accounts for anywhere between 12% and 60% of Delhi’s air pollution. The primary reasons behind farmers setting crop residue afire are cost concerns and the short time gap between summer and winter crops, besides lack of incentives and equipment to manually cut down the stubble.
Although the National Green Tribunal banned the practice in 2015, implementing the order has turned out to be a difficult task.
Even preventive exercises by various agencies, such as the Environment Pollution [Prevention and Control] Authority (EPCA), have come to naught.
The Haryana PCB launched satellite monitoring activities to detect crop-burning cases with the aid of the Haryana Space Applications Centre on September 22, and is believed to have already collected penalties amounting to Rs 5,000 from offending farmers.
Punjab PCB officials, for their part, have written to the Punjab Remote Sensing Centre to launch satellite monitoring from October 1. “No such incident has come to our notice yet. Crop burning is expected to start from the first week of October,” said a senior official with the board.
Meanwhile, red dots have already begun appearing on Nasa’s FIRM web fire mapper, which uses satellite imagery to identify fires on the ground. Officials in Punjab and Haryana, however, claimed that not all red dots imply crop-burning cases.
The EPCA is also pulling out all stops to ensure that the crop-burning situation does not go out of hand. “This year, we directed the pollution control boards of all NCR states to form patrol teams meant for visiting vulnerable areas and flagging violations,” said an agency member.
Though a recent National Thermal Power Corporation proposal to purchase agricultural residue from farmers had raised hopes of a less-polluted winter this year, authorities are doubtful if a business module can be developed in the few days that remain before crop-burning incidents start again.
In a desperate attempt, Punjab chief minister Amarinder Singh recently sought from the Centre a bonus of Rs 100 per quintal on paddy as an incentive to dissuade farmers from burning crop stubble. Sources said Haryana chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar is also taking a special interest in ending the practice.
A team of the anti-narcotics cell of the Karnal police has arrested a drug peddler and claimed to have recovered 1.90kg of opium from him. The police have identified the accused as Dalchand of Makrandpur village in Badayun district of Uttar Pradesh. The police have booked him under the relevant Sections of the NDPS Act at Sadar police station. He was produced in court and was taken on four-day police remand.
The Punjab and Haryana high court has sought a response from the National Highways Authority of India, among others, on a plea challenging the collection of toll at Gadpuri in Palwal on the Delhi-Agra highway. The high court bench of justice Vinod S Bhardwaj acted on the plea from two Palwal residents, Karan Singh Dala, a former MLA, and Rajvir, who had challenged NHAI's decision to allow the collection of toll by the concessionaire.
Haryana deputy chief minister Dushyant Chautala on Friday inaugurated and laid the foundation stones of 16 projects worth Rs 87 crore in Sonepat. Interacting with reporters, Dushyant said Union minister Nitin Gadkari had accepted all the demands related to the road development in the state. He said the Prime Minister will inaugurate the Maruti-Suzuki plant at Kharkhauda on August 28.
A month after the mining mafia killed deputy superintendent of police Surender Singh in Nuh district on July 19, the Haryana government has instituted a commission of inquiry to look into the circumstances leading to the death of the DSP who was mowed down by a dumper during a raid to check illegal mining.
Unidentified persons thrashed a shoe trader's employee and robbed him of his scooter carrying ₹12.50 lakh near Karabara on Thursday late. The man was returning home after dropping his employer at his house in Kitchlu Nagar. However, expressing apprehensions regarding the story, police said the victim had changed his statement a few times. He asked to record his statement, but did not reach the police station until Friday evening.