A lesson learned from the dangerous levels of air pollution witnessed in Delhi-NCR over the past couple of weeks is the need to re-look at the crop stubble management policy, a senior official of the Union Environment Ministry told The Indian Express Thursday.
The official, on condition of anonymity, said a model other than the current approach of giving subsidies to farmers for stubble management machines and incentives for not burning crop residue may need to be considered.
He said officials in both Punjab and Haryana have been giving an incentive of Rs 100 per quintal of paddy to farmers to manage stubble left in the fields after harvest, as per a Supreme Court directive earlier this month.
“However, the SC order came at a time when 70% of harvest was already done,” the official said, adding, “There are other models, some successful, some less. We will have to see (which one is suitable).”
The environment official also said farm fires alone could not be blamed for the problems witnessed in Delhi. “This crisis of pollutants in Delhi is round the year, but you don’t feel it until winter comes and moisture content increases in the air,” he said.
Experts have earlier said that meteorology plays an important role in the concentration of pollutants in Delhi’s air during winter. The ‘severe’ air quality being witnessed in the National Capital Region over the past few days is said to be a result of factors including low temperature, calm surface level winds and contribution of pollutants from farm fires in the neighbouring states.
The environment ministry official said that in Delhi-NCR, pollutants released from “combustion”, including stubble and waste burning, have an additional impact on air quality. “In Delhi, most of the industries do not have a waste disposal system. On one night last year, we recorded 400-odd such incidents (of waste burning),” he said.
The official also added that municipal bodies have been more active this year in controlling emissions in the city, and the Delhi government has also put out all its team to ensure pollution mitigation measures are followed, including preventing spread of dust.
The official said actions taken by multiple agencies in Delhi this year have resulted in reducing heavily polluted days. “If we consistently keep doing this for the next couple of years, we will get rid of it,” he said.