Both Centre and Delhi government are working overtime to reduce air pollution this winter in the national capital region (NCR), which has become an annual feature, compounded by burning of firecrackers during Diwali and stubble burning in Punjab and Haryana. While an inter-ministerial group of Centre held a meeting to review the crop residue management plan on Wednesday, Delhi’s Environment Minister warned residents of strict action on bursting of firecrackers.

Addressing the inter-ministerial group, Environment Minister Bhupender Yadav expressed concern over Punjab government’s failure to take coordinated actions to contain stubble burning in the State. He pointed out that though the State had been provided sufficient number of equipment and farm machineries under crop residue management (CRM) scheme of Agriculture Ministry and also adequate funds from the Centre, yet “there has not been sufficient progress” in implementation of the action plan.

Controlling stubble burning

On the other hand, he lauded efforts of both Haryana and Uttar Pradesh in controlling stubble burning. “They have implemented the framework in the States which includes in-situ management, ex-situ management, effective monitoring and enforcement and IEC activities which have resulted in less events of stubble burning,” the Minister said. However, Yadav at the same time asked the Haryana government to ensure 24-hour supply of electricity in Sonipat, Panipat, Faridabad and Gurugram.

The Minister hoped that coordinated actions will lead to significant improvement of air quality in the region.

Chief Secretary of Haryana said in the meeting that there has been 55 per cent reduction in active fire events in the State compared to last year. Chief Secretary of Punjab was asked to enhance the application of Pusa decomposer and control the increasing rate of active fire events in Amritsar and to ensure 50 per cent reduction in cases of active fire events in the State in comparison to last year.

During the current year, the Centre targets to bring more than 8.15 lakh hectares of land under the ambit of Pusa decomposer technology, which has been recommended for use to manage paddy straw instead of burning it on field to prepare for sowing of wheat.

Fire events

Agriculture Ministry said that 9 out of 22 districts in Punjab and 4 out of 22 districts in Haryana are major contributors of stubble burning in these two states and need special focus there. The trend for fire events was less until October 15, as compared to a year ago, but now it has started growing rapidly, especially in Punjab, the Ministry said. Early harvesting is the reason for high fire counts in Amritsar and Tarn Taran, it added.

In 2021, there was no incident of stubble burning in 92 per cent of 5.7 lakh hectare area where the decomposer was used by farmers.

Meanwhile, Delhi’s Environment Minister Gopal Rai on Wednesday said that production, storage and sale of firecrackers in the capital will be punishable with a fine of up to ₹5,000 and three years of jail under Section 9B of the Explosives Act. In September, the Delhi government re-imposed a complete ban on the production, sale and use of all types of firecrackers till January 1, including on Diwali, a practice it has been following for the last two years.