Burning of paddy straw will be illegal

Burning of paddy straw and stubble could soon become a punishable offence in the National Capital Territory Region as smoke from such fires has been identified as one of the contributing factors to rising air pollution in the city.

This was announced at a meeting of top officials of Delhi, Punjab and Haryana at the Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority office in the city on Saturday.

The meeting was held to review the pollution situation before Diwali and efforts to control air pollution in the region. Punjab will soon issue a notification, prohibiting people from burning paddy straw in the state.

To make the ban on paddy straw burning effective, the Central government should support Punjab and Haryana's proposal to provide 50 per cent subsidy on a pollution-free, agricultural equipment that recycles waste straw, the EPCA said. Scientists said the machine helps augment soil compost by cutting the paddy stubble from the root after harvest, which the farmers burn to prepare the field for the next crop.

Taking serious note of the poor air quality and smog cover that recently engulfed the city, the Supreme Court-appointed EPCA's chairperson Bhure Lal on Saturday asked the Delhi, Haryana, Punjab and Uttar Pradesh governments to take immediate steps to bring down the pollution level in the region.

On Tuesday, the Supreme Court expressed concern over the smog in the Capital. "We are concerned about the level of smog in Delhi. With each passing day, the smog level is rising. Every day we are also hearing about the rising level of pollution in the city. We will deal with the matter," a Bench, led by Chief Justice Altamas Kabir, had observed.

The Delhi Cabinet last week blamed the burning of paddy straw by farmers as a major cause for the smog in the city. A statement from the EPCA said it was decided that Punjab would immediately issue a notification under Section 19 (5) of the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act.

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