Over the past one week, images from NASA have revealed a massive upsurge in the number of fires in the Delhi-NCR area, showing the prevalence of crop residue burning in the region, especially in Haryana. This is despite the complete ban on stubble burning by the National Green Tribunal (NGT).
The images available through NASA’s Fire Mapper show a massive spike in the number of fires in the area between April 25 and May 3. The months of March, April and May are traditionally associated with burning of wheat.
With air pollution in Delhi being one of the worst in the world, the call for a complete end to crop residue burning, identified as a major health hazard, has intensified over the past year. Repeatedly, source apportionment studies have reiterated that it is a major regional source of pollution, exposing people to harmful levels of particulate matter. Last week, the Gautam Buddh Nagar administration had filed an FIR against a farmer for stubble burning in his field in Greater Noida — the first such case.
On Wednesday, the NGT was shown photographs of crop burning in Kaithal district in Haryana, prompting it to ask state governments for a status report. The next hearing is scheduled for May 11.
Noting that this was the season for slow burning of wheat straws, petitioner Vikrant Tongad said the green tribunal sought an explanation for why this practice continued despite the ban. “We submitted photographs to the NGT which prompted the court to seek a compliance report from Punjab, Haryana, UP and Rajasthan on the action taken against erring farmers, fines levied on them and the subsidy that has to be given to farmers to tackle this situation,” he said.
Environmentalists, however, pointed out that although solutions are available to tackle crop burning, yet there are barriers for implementation.