Choke on construction stays till Monday Malwa in Punjab sees more farm fires this yr
Industries To Be Shut Too; Review After 2 Days
New Delhi: The Supreme Court-appointed Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority (EPCA) on Saturday extended the ban on construction and industries in the national capital region (NCR) and the entry of trucks in Delhi — all measures under Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP)— for two more days, considering the foul air quality in the region.
In a letter addressed to the chief secretaries and the pollution control boards of four NCR states — Delhi, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan, EPCA chairperson Bhure Lal said the ban on industries using coal and biomass, including brick kilns, entry of trucks to Delhi (except those carrying essential commodities) and construc- tion activities would be extended till Monday.
The Central Pollution Control Board-headed task force informed EPCA late on November 9 night that given the prevailing adverse conditions, these measures will remain in place till November 12, when it will further review the situation. “You are requested to immediately take steps to ensure compliance of these directions,” Lal said in the letter, a copy of which is with TOI.
Earlier, anticipating high pollution levels between November 1 and 10, EPCA had announced shutting down of construction activities for 10 days in NCR and closing coal and biomass-based industries from November 4 to 10, and requested people to limit exposure to the foul air. On Tuesday, it had banned entry of trucks into Delhi from November 8 to 10, keeping in mind the high post-Diwali pollution.
EPCA member Sunita Narain had earlier said these tough steps needed to be taken as and when the situation demanded it. “You can’t hold up a whole city with some of these measures like banning of construction, for example, since it also raises questions regarding livelihoods of labourers. However, this is a public health emergency and it has to be a priority.”
Despite all these steps, NCR, yet again, saw its air quality nosedive on Diwali, when the Supreme Court order allowing bursting of only green crackers from just 8pm to10pm was rampantly violated. The day after Diwali, the air turned fouler than last year.
On Diwali Day, the air quality oscillated between ‘poor’ and ‘very poor’ as the authorities had warned of severe deterioration even if “partial toxic crackers” were burned compared to last year. However, on Thursday, most air quality monitoring stations had recorded ‘very poor’ air as AQI touched 390. On Friday, it reached ‘severe’ levels at 423.
The remaining 15 districts of Punjab have recorded 47.5% cases of stubble burning at 19,004 cases this year. The seven Malwa districts have recorded 4,696 more cases of stubble burning till November 9 this year in comparison to the same period in 2017. Ferozepur has recorded the biggest spurt in stubble burning with 1,493 more cases recorded in the district till November 9.
The increase in stubble burning cases in Malwa region was registered despite the efforts of the government to prevent farmers from burning paddy straw. This is the only region in Punjab that has registered an increase in incidents of stubble burning, according to the data of the Punjab Remote Sensing Centre.
Bathinda deputy commissioner Praneet Bhardwaj said the state’s agriculture authorities are investigating the increase in stubble burning cases and added that adverse entries will be made in the land records of farmers who burned stubble despite the government’s orders.
However, in Bathinda, which registered 4,174 cases of stubble burning till Friday, only 281 challans have been issued to farmers till date.
However, Punjab Pollution Control Board member secretary Karunesh Garg is optimistic that acreage of fields where stubble was burned this year has reduced.
“Though cases of stubble burning this year may increase compared to 2017, the acreage of the fields overall where stubble was burned will be smaller than the previous year,” Garg said. “Last year, the crop residue in over 50% of the total acreage was put on fire. This time, the number of stubble burning cases being almost equal, the acreage set on fire is expected to be 30-35% of the total area under paddy cultivation,” Garg added.
THE BURNING ISSUE: A farmer burns paddy stubble on the outskirts of Jalandhar on Saturday
Industries using coal and biomass, including brick kilns. It does not include power and waste-to-energy plantsEntry of trucks to Delhi, except those carrying essential commodities Construction work