Stubble Burning only 4% of Air Pollution: Centre to Supreme Court

The Centre's affidavit states that 75% of the air pollution is caused by industries (27%), dust (24%), and transport (24%).

The Supreme Court on Monday observed that the hue and cry over control of stubble burning was over nothing considering it accounted for only 4% of air pollution.

The top court's observation came on the heels of Solicitor General Tushar Mehta's submission that farm fires were "not a major cause" of pollution.

The Centre's affidavit—detailing measures considered to curb air pollution—stated that close to 75% of the air pollution was a result of industries (27%), dust (24% —this includes construction), and transport (24%). The chart submits that stubble burning contributed only 4% to air pollution during the winter.

"You accept farm fires are not a major cause of pollution. So the hue and cry over stubble burning have no legal or scientific basis?" Justice Surya Kant, who was part of the three-judge bench said.

"In fact now the cat is out of the bag... So we are targeting something which is totally insignificant," Justice DY Chandrachud, the third judge on the bench, said referring to the contributors of air pollution as stated in the Centre's affidavit.

A three-judge bench led by Chief Justice of India NV Ramana is hearing a plea filed by 17-year-old Aditya Dubey seeking measures to curb toxic air pollution. The top court on Saturday had asked the Centre to consider imposing a two-day complete lockdown in the national capital of Delhi as an emergency measure to curb rising levels of air pollution.

After hearing arguments in detail, the top court concluded that the transport, industries, vehicular traffic apart from stubble burning in some areas were the "major culprits of air pollution".

The bench led by CJI Ramana also set a more focused agenda for the EC to consider and said it was willing to convene after working hours tomorrow evening to hear the matter if required. However, the matter will now be heard on November 17.

Also Read: Consider Delhi Lockdown To Curb Air Pollution As An Emergency: SC to Centre

Hue and cry over stubble burning over nothing: SC to Centre

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta said stubble burning contributed to less than 10% of pollution while he was apprising the Supreme Court on measures contemplated to curb air pollution in an emergency meeting held by an Executive Committee comprising of secretaries of the Centre, and states governments of Delhi, Punjab, and Haryana.

During the Saturday hearing on this issue, the Centre had said that Punjab, which borders Delhi, must "buckle up" and tackle stubble burning, an important cause of air pollution. The top court had then observed that it had become a "fashion" to bash farmers.

"You are making it as if farmers are responsible for this," CJI Ramana had said. The top judge said that a percentage of the worsening air quality could be because of stubble burning, however other causes included vehicular pollution, firecrackers, industrial pollution etc.

Farm fires are a sticky point in light of the upcoming state assembly elections in Punjab. The state government is allegedly going easy against erring farmers with respect to the collection of fines and action taken against those guilty of stubble burning.

However, there's a dichotomy over the Centre's submission and observations recorded by the Executive Committee that met on Sunday to discuss curbs for air pollution.

According to the minutes of the seventh meeting—annexed in the Centre's affidavit—of the Executive Committee that met on Sunday, post-Diwali there has been a spurt of fire incidents owing to paddy stubble burning particularly in Punjab. There have been 42,285 incidents recorded in the last 10 days out of a cumulative fire count of 62,863 till November 13 during this season.

Haryana has seen a likewise increase with respect to last year (3,635 incidences) with 5400 incidences being reported so far this year.

The EC recorded that efforts need to be intensified to control instances of stubble burning to a minimum as it contributed 35-40% of air pollution.

Also Read: India Needs To Focus On Rural And Urban Air Pollution To Meet WHO Standards

Impose work from home for NCR: SC to Centre

The Supreme Court on Monday directed the Centre and the states in the National Capital Region (NCR) which includes Delhi, Uttar Pradesh and Haryana to impose work from home in the meantime.

"The way we expected the executive will discuss and come with a solution has not been done. This is unfortunate," CJI NV Ramana said expressing the bench's disappointment over the lack of proper consensus by the Executive Committee that convened over the weekend for an emergency meeting to consider measures to tackle air pollution.

"Broadly all affidavits indicate that stubble burning does not cause much pollution but even then, a good amount is taking place in Haryana and Punjab. We request state governments to pursue the farmers to stop the burning for a week," the court noted in its order.

"Don't punish farmers but persuade them and give them options so that they don't burn stubble," the bench observed.

Also Read: Air Pollution Killed A Newborn Every 5 Minutes In 2019

Ready to impose lockdown if Centre mandates it across NCR: Delhi Government to SC

The Aam Aadmi Party-led Delhi government told the Supreme Court that it was willing to impose a lockdown provided the Centre mandated the same across the entire NCR region which includes at least 13 districts in Haryana and eight in Uttar Pradesh.

"We can have a lockdown also but since we don't have air boundaries, the central government can consider having it in the entire NCR and lockdown has to be imposed as a whole," senior advocate Rahul Mehra said while representing the Delhi government.

The state government added that it would further work on a "war footing" to implement measures to curb air pollution.

Updated On: 2021-11-15T15:56:57+05:30
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