Air pollution: Frame a joint response
The first instances of stubble burning have started appearing in India and Pakistan, this newspaper reported on Wednesday. Satellite data from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) showed that “red dots”, representing large-scale fires, have appeared in parts of Pakistan, and Punjab and Haryana. Scientists have warned that this year, the Capital’s bad air problem could worsen because the late withdrawal of the monsoon from northwest India has left farmers with a short window to harvest and clear their fields. This could force farmers to opt for residue burning.
The Centre and Delhi government have assured citizens that they are taking measures to tackle winter pollution. On October 5, Union environment minister, Bhupender Yadav, said that mitigation measures to control stubble burning started in July. A day earlier, Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal announced a 10-point winter action plan, including paddy straw burning and control through the Pusa Bio Decomposer, which helps the paddy stubble decompose quickly, eliminating the need for farmers to set fire to their fields after harvest. However, Mr Kejriwal added that while his government has appealed to the Centre to ensure that states use the decomposer, the Centre’s response has been tepid.
With upcoming assembly elections in Punjab, and the farmer agitation still continuing, penalising farmers for burning stubble can be politically costly. The Centre, Delhi and neighbouring states must figure out a joint response to help farmers stop stubble burning. The Centre, Delhi (which will get over ₹18 crore under the National Clean Air Programme), and other states also need to double their efforts to clean up other pollution sources, which add to the pollution load of the region.