NGT asks Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh about steps to tackle crop burning this year

PUNJAB : The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has asked Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh how they intend to tackle the problem of crop burning, a major contributor to air pollution in Delhi, this year.

A bench headed by NGT Chairperson Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel asked the three states to file progress reports indicating the “strategies and proposed action plan” to tackle the problem.

“The concerned states may also file their respective progress reports which may include the strategies and action plan proposed to be employed to tackle the problem in the current year,” the NGT said in its order.

The direction by the tribunal came pursuant to news reports on deaths caused in the national capital due to air pollution and crop burning being one of the reasons for the poor air quality. The bench said the issue for consideration before it was the remedial action needed to tackle air pollution caused by crop burning.

It said that according to news reports, 25-30 per cent of the air pollution in the national capital region was caused due to crop burning in Punjab, Haryana, UP and Delhi.

The tribunal referred to the news reports while hearing a plea by Ganga Lalwani seeking direction to provide machinery to poor and marginal farmers to avoid crop residue burning. In the proceedings, the NGT also referred to a report filed by the Agriculture Ministry in June this year regarding a central scheme to promote agricultural mechanisation for managing crop residue on site in Punjab, Haryana, UP and National Capital Territory of Delhi.

Under the scheme, a subsidy is provided for purchasing requisite machinery. Apart from that, the report mentioned a scheme for hiring such machines as well as exploring maize as an alternative to paddy farming.

It said that maize can be promoted as an alternative by providing incentives and encouraging its use in industrial applications, mainly for ethanol and other products. The other recommendations in the ministry’s report included use of crop residue for generating bio-energy, providing crop rotating machinery timely so as to be available during sowing period, preferring shorter duration paddy varieties and strengthening media campaigns against crop burning.

After perusing the report, the tribunal also gave some suggestions, including the need for developing an app in coordination with ISRO’s geoportal ‘Bhuvan’ to alert village-level officer or local police when crop burning is noticed.

The tribunal also said that use of drones and satellite imagery to map hot-spots, as done in respect of forest fires, may also be explored by the ministry and the states concerned. “Finally, the monitoring network is required to be effective and more vigilant,” the tribunal said.

Apart from that, it also suggested exploring the possibility of composting crop residue to use it as organic manure.