The Center is holding an emergency meeting of NCR states on pollution

The Union Cabinet Secretary has asked the Punjab state administration to take effective measures to stop stubble burning in the remaining days of this crop season. The directive was issued after an emergency meeting attended by chief secretaries and other senior officials of Punjab, Haryana, UP & Rajasthan and NCT of Delhi. The meeting chaired by the Cabinet Secretary was also attended by the Chairman of the Commission on Air Quality Management (CAQM) and Secretaries of the Ministries of Environment and Forests, Agriculture, Housing, Urban Affairs and Energy.

The CAQM data and inputs provided by state governments had revealed that the current crisis situation is mainly due to stubble burning as 38% of air pollution was caused by stubble burning on November 8. The data shows that for the period from September 15 to November 7, a total of 22,644 stubble burning cases were recorded, of which 20,978 (93%) were in Punjab and 1,605 (7%) in Haryana. It was also found that harvesting in Haryana is more than 90% complete while in Punjab it is 60% complete. Therefore, the state has been asked to take immediate measures to prevent further stubble harvesting during the remaining crop season.

The meeting, convened on the basis of a Supreme Court order, demanded that CAQM deploy flying squads to Punjab and Haryana and submit daily reports on farm fire incidents and enforcement status. The state governments have also been asked to take follow-up action on the cases filed in the last two years for violating the ban on stubble burning and share the details with the CAQM.

The meeting noted that the agriculture ministry has so far released ₹3,333 crore – ₹1,531 crore to Punjab and ₹1,006 crore to Haryana – under the Crop Residue Management (CRM) scheme. It was also pointed out that under the CRM program, nearly 1.20 lakh seed drills are available in Punjab and 76,000 in Haryana.

It was found that optimal utilization of these machines could have prevented stubble burning on such a large scale. The state governments of Punjab and Haryana have been directed to use available seed drills to prevent further stubble burning.

Sybil Alvarez

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