In­dia court or­ders halt to stub­ble burn­ing

En­tire ad­min­is­tra­tive, po­lice hi­er­ar­chy would be held re­spon­si­ble if the prac­tice con­tin­ued: Supreme Court

Muscat Daily - - FRONT PAGE -

New Delhi, In­dia - In­dia’s top court has or­dered a com­plete halt to stub­ble burn­ing around Delhi, a ma­jor con­trib­u­tor to lethal smog that on Tues­day kept the me­trop­o­lis of 20mn peo­ple chok­ing in air rated ‘very poor’.

The Supreme Court said the cap­i­tal’s res­i­dents were ‘los­ing pre­cious years’ of their lives, adding ‘peo­ple are dy­ing, this just can­not hap­pen in a civilised coun­try’.

In a rul­ing fol­low­ing pe­ti­tions filed by ac­tivists, the court’s judges or­dered an im­me­di­ate halt to the prac­tice of farm­ers burn­ing crop stub­ble in the states sur­round­ing the cap­i­tal.

They warned that the en­tire ad­min­is­tra­tive and po­lice hi­er­ar­chy - all the way down to lo­cal of­fi­cers - would be held re­spon­si­ble if the prac­tice con­tin­ued.

Burn­ing stub­ble is al­ready il­le­gal, but many hard-up farm­ers say they have no choice.

Each win­ter, smog hits north­ern In­dia as cooler air traps the stub­ble smoke, car fumes, fac­tory emis­sions and con­struc­tion dust close to the ground, cre­at­ing a nox­ious cock­tail that burns eyes and makes breath­ing dif­fi­cult.

On Sun­day pol­lu­tion shot up, with lev­els of par­tic­u­lates mea­sur­ing less than 2.5 mi­crons - so tiny they can en­ter the blood­stream - ap­proach­ing 1,000 mi­cro­grams per cu­bic me­tre of air, the worst in three years.

The World Health Or­gan­i­sa­tion’s rec­om­mended safe daily max­i­mum is just 25.

Flights were di­verted and hos­pi­tals re­ported a surge in pa­tients with res­pi­ra­tory complaints.

Con­cen­tra­tions of the tiny par­ti­cles - which can be lethal with long-term ex­po­sure - fell on Tues­day, with the govern­ment mon­i­tor­ing agency SAFAR rat­ing the air ‘very poor’, down from ‘se­vere’ a day ear­lier.

Ac­cord­ing to the AirVisual web­site, Delhi re­mained the most pol­luted city in the world on Tues­day ahead of Kolkata in eastern In­dia and La­hore in Pak­istan. Beijing was in sixth place.

Con­struc­tion was banned tem­po­rar­ily in Delhi late last week, while schools have been closed un­til Wed­nes­day - with city au­thor­i­ties hand­ing out free anti-pol­lu­tion masks to chil­dren.

Au­thor­i­ties also parked a van with an air pu­ri­fier near the Taj Ma­hal in a bid to clean the at­mos­phere that has dam­aged the iconic mar­ble mau­soleum, some 250km south of Delhi.

“We read in news­pa­pers about pol­lu­tion in In­dia and bought masks once we landed in Delhi. The air is re­ally bad here and we are wor­ried about our chil­dren,” Neelo­far, a tourist from Iran at the Taj Ma­hal, said.

On Mon­day Delhi au­thor­i­ties moved to re­duce traf­fic by rolling out a scheme al­low­ing cars with odd and even reg­is­tra­tion num­bers on the roads on al­ter­nate days.

Delhi’s Chief Min­is­ter Arvind Ke­jri­wal, who has called the city a ‘gas cham­ber’, hailed the first day of the scheme as a suc­cess, with 1.5mn cars off the roads and traf­fic re­duced. Two thou­sand vol­un­teers and more than 465 po­lice and trans­port of­fi­cials were de­ployed at in­ter­sec­tions, hand­ing out fines of R4,000 (nearly US$60) to 259 trans­gres­sors.

They in­cluded Vi­jay Goel, of Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi’s rul­ing party, who flouted the law in his ve­hi­cle to protest what he called a ‘stunt’ ahead of up­com­ing city elec­tions.

Ex­empt from the re­stric­tions were Delhi’s seven mil­lion mo­tor­bikes and scoot­ers, pub­lic trans­port ve­hi­cles, and cars car­ry­ing only women, stok­ing crit­i­cism that the mea­sures were to­ken. Sid­dharth Singh, a cli­mate pol­icy ex­pert, called the traf­fic re­stric­tions ‘in­ef­fec­tive’.

“If air pol­lu­tion was solely due to the ve­hic­u­lar traf­fic, then this would be a so­lu­tion. Right now it can­not be a so­lu­tion be­cause mo­torised pri­vate trans­port has a very small share in the whole pie,” Singh said.

The air is re­ally bad here and we are wor­ried about our chil­dren

An Ira­nian tourist


Peo­ple burn straw stub­ble af­ter har­vest­ing paddy crops in a field near At­tari vil­lage, in the state of Pun­jab on Tues­day

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