Choke on con­struc­tion stays till Mon­day Malwa in Pun­jab sees more farm fires this yr

In­dus­tries To Be Shut Too; Re­view Af­ter 2 Days

The Times of India (New Delhi edition) - - TIMES CITY | THAT CHOKING SENSATION - Ri­tam.Halder@ times­ Photo: Anindya Chat­topad­hyay

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

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