Can’t have a ‘gas chamber’: Delhi HC to Punjab, Haryana, UP on stubble burning
The bench directed Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan to “strictly” implement “in letter and spirit” the notifications issued by their respective governments under the Air Pollution Act.india Updated: Sep 22, 2017 21:13 IST
“We cannot have another gas chamber situation,” the Delhi High Court said on Friday and issued a slew of directions to the states of Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan to stop stubble burning.
A bench of Justices S Ravindra Bhat and Sunil Gaur also asked the Centre, Delhi government and the local authorities here to inform it about the latest position with regard to the steps taken for solid waste management and disposal.
The court’s directions came on a PIL initiated by it in 2015 and another petition filed by a private person for addressing the issue of poor air quality in the national capital.
The order on burning of crop residue was passed by the court as this practice starts from the month of October and continues up to January, during which the air quality of these states and especially of Delhi deteriorates.
“Considering the facts on record and the submission of the parties, and given that the Kharif crop is to be harvested, there is strong likelihood that the burning of agricultural residue will be resorted to in this season as well.
“The effects of such practice can again be traumatic for most people and catastrophic for some,” the bench said, while issuing the directions on burning of stubble or agricultural waste.
“We cannot have another gas chamber situation,” the bench said as it issued directions to the states.
The bench directed the four states to “strictly” implement “in letter and spirit” the notifications issued by their respective governments under the Air Pollution Act banning such activity.
It also ordered the state governments to direct all the companies and public sector undertakings involved in power generation, board and rough paper manufacture, cement production and others, to collect the crop residue from farmers in exchange of money as part of their corporate social responsibility.
The bench said if the companies do this, then the states or the Centre would not have to spend on prevention of stubble burning.
It also directed the local authorities of each state and Delhi to strictly implement the Graded Response Action Plan notified by the Centre in January this year for combating air pollution in the national capital region.
Under the plan air quality has been graded into emergency, severe, very poor and moderate poor categories and, depending upon the grading, remedial measures like odd-even car rationing and ban on construction have been suggested.
The bench ordered the Centre to monitor sites where agricultural waste is burnt by tracking them through satellites.
“The states concerned, especially those having locales where smog formation is most likely, are to inform members of the public, the protective measures (like availability of gas masks) to be taken by them to safeguard their health,” the court said.
It said such protective gears should be made available in advance to those public personnel like police, watch and ward staff, as well as workers who would be exposed to it.
The bench also ordered that reports of the prosecutions launched for preventing burning of agricultural waste will be filed before it every week from October 1.
It directed that these preventive measures should come into effect forthwith and asked the four states, Delhi and the Centre to file brief affidavits disclosing the measures taken before the next date of hearing on October 16.
The Centre, Delhi government, the local bodies here and the National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC) were also directed to file their latest status reports regarding the enhancement of capacity of waste-to-energy power plants, the provision for fresh sites to accommodate waste disposal through landfills and the steps taken so far with respect to solid waste management and disposal.