Delhi Air Pollution: End stubble burning immediately, orders SC

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News: The Supreme Court has asked the governments of Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh to immediately stop their farmers from stubble burning.

Facts:

Stubble Burning: It is the practice of intentionally setting fire to residues which remains after the harvest of a crop. It is usually done to clear the field quickly for the next season and to burn off weeds and other pests.

Issue:

  • Stubble burning is pan-Indian problem. However, it is most acute in Punjab, Haryana and Western Uttar Pradesh.
  • It contributes significantly to air pollution in Delhi-NCR region when in autumn, paddy stubbles are burned to prepare field for wheat cultivation.
  • The climatic conditions during winter aggravate the condition. During the winter, dust particles and pollutants in the air become unable to move. Due to stagnant winds, these pollutants get locked in the air and results in smog in Delhi-NCR region.

Steps taken

  • In 2013, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) issued a directive to Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh to take immediate steps to curb stubble burning. The Centre and states of Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh have declared “zero tolerance policy” on stubble burning.
  • Further, in 2018, the Punjab government drafted an action plan to deal with stubble burning. Under the plan, the state has decided to provide straw management machinery at 80% subsidy to the cooperative societies and other groups and at 50% subsidy to individual farmers.
  • Happy Seeder: It is a tractor-operated machine developed by the Punjab Agricultural University (PAU) in collaboration with Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR). It is used for in-situ management of paddy stubble (straw).
  • Advanced Air Quality Early Warning System: It has been developed by Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology, Pune, under MoES. The system uses data of stubble burning incidents from the past 15 years to predict the date and place of the next burning.