New Delhi: With pollution from stubble burning in neighbouring states "choking" Delhi year after year, the Supreme Court was Monday informed that it has gone up by seven percent in Punjab and decreased by around 17 percent in Haryana.
The apex court was informed by the Centre that stubble burning contributed about 46 percent to the pollution in the Delhi-National Capital Region (NCR) followed by waste and garbage burning, construction and demolition.
A bench of Justices Arun Mishra and Deepak Gupta was informed by Additional Solicitor General ANS Nadkarni, appearing for the Centre, that instances of stubble burning were high in four districts of Punjab — Tarn Taran, Sangrur, Firozpur, and Patiala.
Senior advocate Aparajita Singh, assisting the top court as an amicus curiae in the pollution matter, told the bench that though the Centre has said in its affidavit that they have provided machines to farmers so as to curb instances of stubble burning, still it has gone up by 7 percent in Punjab.
"We have to call every concerned officials and settle this," the bench said. To this, the amicus said, "The court should call the chief secretaries of these states. This cannot go on. The Supreme Court has passed every possible order in this regard".
During the hearing, the bench said though Punjab is the "rice bowl" of the country, it cannot allow stubble burning there as it violates the right to life of citizens by putting their lives at risk.
The amicus said the Centre has stated that it has given machines to the farmers at subsidised rates to prevent stubble burning.
"As per the affidavit of Union of India, stubble burning has gone up in Punjab and gone down in Haryana. As per the affidavit, the active fire in Punjab has increased by seven percent. It says in Haryana, it has decreased by 17 percent. How this is possible?" the amicus said.
Regarding stubble burning in western Uttar Pradesh, the Centre said they have not got the requisite information yet.
During the hearing, the bench was given the satellite imagery of stubble burning in Punjab, Haryana and western Uttar Pradesh.
The bench said that the authorities, right from the level of chief secretary to gram panchayat level, have to ensure that no stubble burning takes places henceforth and in case of violation, they would be hauled up by the court.
"Law of tort (which deals with remedy for civil wrong) will apply to these states. Gram Panchayats will also be held liable," the bench said while terming the prevailing situation as "grim".
It directed the chief secretaries of Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh to appear before it on 6 November.
It also asked these three states to explain why they should not be asked to pay compensation for the damage caused due to severe pollution in the area on the principle of polluter pays.
The bench also directed the gram pradhans of these states and concerned station house officer (SHO) of police station to prepare inventory of those who have indulged in stubble burning.
It asked the gram pradhans to advise the villagers not to involve in stubble burning as this causes severe pollution in and around the area.
The bench said though the Centre and the concerned states are alive to the situation, but steps have to be taken forthwith with the help of experts to tackle the situation.
During the hearing, the bench asked the Centre to call environment experts from Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Delhi and Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEF&CC).
When the experts came to court, the bench asked them about the immediate steps which could be taken to deal with the situation.
The bench asked about possibility of cloud seeding but the IIT expert said that it was not possible in such a vast area.
Joint secretary of MoEF&CC told the court about the steps which the government has taken to deal with the issue and said that "at the highest level" efforts are being made.
The bench also asked the IIT expert as to whether sprinkling of water in the area can be done by helicopter.
The expert said that water sprinklers from vehicles would help in tackling pollution from dust on roads.
At the fag end of hearing, counsel appearing for Haryana told the bench that since Assembly session was on in the state, the appearance of chief secretary should be dispensed with and instead, principal secretary would appear in the court on 6 November.
"Let the chief secretary come. Chief secretary, chief secretary and only chief secretary will have to be here or we can adjourn the Assembly session also," the bench said.
The bench passed slew of directions in the matter to curb severe air pollution in the region.
Updated Date: Nov 04, 2019 22:16:24 IST