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NGT takes suo motu cognizance and issues notice to Punjab government for rise in pollution due to stuble burning

The National Green Tribunal took suo motu cognizance and issued notice on the matter of rising air pollution in Punjab due to the increasing stubble burning.

The principal bench of Chairperson Justice Prakash Shrivastava and Dr. A. Senthil Vel noted from the newspaper report dated 06.10.2023 published in ‘The Hindu’ titled “Pollution takes a front seat as stubble fires spike in Punjab” that the stubble burning is aggravating the air pollution and that till the publication of the newspaper report, the State had witnessed 656 farm fire incidents and the same were up by around 63% against the corresponding period for the previous year.

The previous year’s figures upto that period are disclosed to be 415. Hence, the report says there is a rise of 241 cases.

As per the report, District Amritsar was the worst hit district with 429 farm fire cases and Tarn Taran Sahib district stands second with 88 such incidents. Such stubble burning around autumn is stated to be one of the biggest contributing factors to the air pollution across the northern region specially the national capital and surrounding areas.

The opinion of the farmer outfits in Punjab has been recorded in the report by mentioning that the farmer outfits have made it clear to the State Government that although they are against the burning of stubble, but without a viable alternative or financial incentive, they would have no option but to continue with the status quo.

On advance notice, the Punjab Pollution Control Board (PPCB) has filed the report. The report makes a mention of various steps which have been taken by the PPCB and the State authorities but, the effective implementation of various measures is the key for controlling the stubble burning in the State.

“The State authorities as also Officers of the PPCB are required to identify the worst affected areas within the hotspot districts and focus in those areas for proper remedial measures”, the Bench directed.

The period when the stubble burning takes place is mainly between 15 September to 30 November. Hence the NGT directed that during this period, the concerned authorities are required to be vigilant in identifying the violators and in taking remedial measures including imposition of penalty.

The report on behalf of the Commission for Air Quality Management in NCR and Adjoining Areas has also been placed on record. The report also tabulates the actual counts of incidents of stubble burning in the year 2022 and the targets for reducing them in the year 2023.

For achieving the above targets effective on ground action is required by the responsible authorities. Hence, the NGT directed PPCB to prepare and place on record the area-wise Crop Residue Management Plan.

In the circumstances of the case, the NGT deemed it proper to also issue notice to the following:

i. Chief Secretary, State of Punjab

ii. Member Secretary, Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) .

“Let further action taken report be filed by the PPCB as also by the Commission for Air Quality Management in NCR & Adjoining Areas on or before the next date of hearing”, the Bench directed listing the matter on 08.11.2023 for further hearing.

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