The National Green Tribunal (NGT) recently intervened in response to the escalating concern of stubble burning in Punjab and Haryana. This intervention follows a concerning surge in air pollution attributed to crop residue burning in Punjab, as highlighted in a newspaper report. The tribunal, chaired by Justice Prakash Shrivastava alongside judicial member Justice Arun Kumar Tyagi and expert member A Senthil Vel, deemed farm fires a critical issue demanding immediate remedial action.
Incident Analysis and Statistics:
Citing a distressing Commission for Air Quality Management (CAQM) report, the NGT revealed alarming statistics: Punjab had recorded a staggering 36,632 farm fire incidents, with 2,285 occurring between September 15 and November 28 alone. Notably, Sangrur district in Punjab bore the brunt with 5,352 incidents, while Fatehabad district in Haryana reported 476 incidents within the specified timeframe.
Current Status and Concerns:
Acknowledging a decline in farm fire incidents, the bench noted the absence of reported incidents in Haryana and only 18 occurrences in Punjab as of November 28. However, the tribunal stressed the critical period between September 15 and November 30, specifically citing concerns linked to paddy residue burning during this phase.
NGT's Directive for Remedial Action:
Recognizing the persistent nature of the problem, the NGT issued a clear directive to both Punjab and Haryana. They are mandated to formulate a comprehensive, time-bound action plan spanning from January 1 to September 1, 2024. This plan must outline phased interventions and preventive measures to curtail stubble burning. Crucially, the directive includes the identification of responsible authorities tasked with executing these measures for effective implementation.
Anticipated Steps and Follow-up:
In a proactive stance, the NGT scheduled the matter for further proceedings on January 19. The tribunal expects Punjab to present the action plan within six weeks, indicating a commitment to addressing and mitigating the annual challenge of residue burning. This forward-thinking approach aims to ensure adequate preparation and execution of measures well in advance to combat the upcoming year's residue burning.
This directive by the NGT stands as a pivotal step in addressing the recurring environmental hazard posed by stubble burning, underscoring the imperative need for preemptive and decisive action to safeguard air quality and public health in the region.