The National Green Tribunal on Tuesday directed Delhi and four northern states to formulate a comprehensive policy for providing incentives and infrastructural assistance to farmers to stop them from burning crop residue to prevent air pollution. The green panel directed the chief secretaries of Delhi, Haryana, Punjab, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh governments to file a detailed affidavit enumerating their action plan and compliance of its orders on the mechanism for collection and storage of crop residue. A bench headed by Justice Jawad Rahim ordered the state governments to submit the action plan in two weeks and warned that in case of default, it would summon the chief secretaries of these states.
“You (state governments) may have joined 2-3 states together but we require action plans for each state about how you are planning to deal with the matter, (which should be) signed by the chief secretary of each state. The schemes must contain the incentives that you are offering so that we can take further action,” the bench observed.
The tribunal rapped the Delhi and Rajasthan governments after they told the bench that they were examining the issue and sought time for filing the action plan. The NGT said the state governments are under obligation to identify the sites in each district for removal, collection and storage of crop residue for further utilisation but there has been no “concrete” development in the matter. “It is regrettable that no responsible statement is being made except seeking instructions,” the bench said and posted the matter for further hearing on March 13.
Punjab and Haryana governments had told the tribunal that there were few plants for palletisation of crop residue, and they could promote this mechanism through private participation if the National Thermal Power Corporation gave a commitment with viable rates and long-term buy-back arrangements.
The tribunal had asked the state governments to give the description of these sites in their areas along with their capacity and the modes of utilisation of the crop residue generated in the fields. The Punjab government had earlier faced the wrath of the tribunal for not taking effective steps to provide financial assistance and infrastructure facility to the farmers to encourage them not to burn agricultural residue in their fields.
The green panel had said that two years had elapsed since its verdict in the Vikrant Tongad case, in which it had passed a slew of directions to stop crop burning, but the state government had shown a lethargic approach. It had said the Punjab government had also failed to tie up with any company, private or public, which could utilise the crop residue.
The tribunal had directed the Delhi, Haryana, Punjab, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh governments to convene a meeting to work out a clear mechanism on transportation and use of stubble as fuel in power plants.