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Punjab to Stop Paddy Straw Burning From This Year: HC on Air Pollution

New Delhi: Air quality of Delhi and nearby states is deteriorating day by day and has attained alarming proportions, the Delhi High Court on Thursday said while asking the Centre and the Punjab government to work out a plan to stop from this year paddy straw burning in the state, a major contributor to air pollution.

“State of Punjab has stated in its affidavit filed in the court that by year 2019-2020 there would be a complete ban on the burning of the paddy residues.”

“It means that the stubble burning would continue in year 2017, 2018 and 2019 as well, which is a major contributor of air pollution in Delhi and nearby states,” a bench of Justices Badar Durrez Ahmed and Ashutosh Kumar observed.

“We are of the view that the air quality of Delhi and nearby states is already deteriorating day by day and has attained alarming proportions,” the bench said and directed that the Punjab and the central governments should work out a plan to ensure there is no burning of paddy residues from the year 2017 itself.

“Air pollution is troublesome issue. It is matter of life and death. It is a health-related issue. How can we ignore it,” the bench said, adding that “when we can stop certain currency from use, why can’t stubble burning be stopped”.

The court’s direction came after perusing the affidavit filed on behalf of the state of Punjab, which stated that approximately 14 million tonnes of paddy straw is burnt each year, particularly in October-November.

“This would mean that there would be approximately about 9,000 tonnes of PM 2.5 which is emitted because of the paddy straw burning.

“Similarly, the figure for PM 10 (which includes PM 2.5) would be 10,000 tonnes. These are alarming statistics, and particularly so, as they are the major contributors to air pollution in Delhi,” the court said in its order.

The Punjab government’s response came on a PIL initiated by the high court on its own on the issue of alarming levels of air pollution in the national capital.

The bench was also told that levels of harmful pollutants that people are exposed to in east Delhi’s Anand Vihar were recently found to be two to four times higher than the air pollution levels in other part of Delhi, which are several times more than the standard.

On being asked the reason for high air pollution at Anand Vihar, the bench was told that the main cause was a chaotic traffic situation in the area, idling emission from vehicles and encroachments on the road.

Taking note of this, the bench directed the authorities concerned of Delhi and Uttar Pradesh to immediately take up the matter of air pollution on a war footing to ensure that the traffic at Anand Vihar is smooth and all the encroachers from the road be removed forthwith”.

The court asked the authorities to comply with its order and file a status report by February 2, the next date of hearing.

It directed the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) to immediately act against felling of trees in Aravalli Biodiversity Park here, on a plea claiming such activities would adversely impact the environment and increase air pollution in the city.

The amicus curiae, who was appointed by the court to assist it in the matter, has said that “if illegal felling of timber in Aravalli ¬†Biodiversity Park is not stopped and encroachments prohibited, the park will be destroyed and the ecosystem and environment damage will be beyond repair”.

The Aravalli Biodiversity Park is an area spread over 692 acres (2.8 sq km) in the South Central Delhi Ridge within the Aravalli Range. The area is close to JNU, Mehrauli- Mahipalpur road, NH-8, Vasant Kunj, Masoodpur, Palam road and southern Vasant Vihar. DDA and the University of Delhi, under the joint Biodiversity Parks Programme, maintain the area.