The National Green Tribunal (NGT) said on Friday “serious” burning of crop residue by farmers was still going on and sought the response of the Centre as well Punjab and Haryana governments on steps taken by them to check the practice so that air pollution could be curbed.
The Punjab government on Friday produced before the NGT 12 farmers it claimed to have helped by giving incentives and infrastructural facilities to prevent them from burning crop residue. A bench headed by NGT Chairperson Justice Swatanter Kumar heard the farmers’ grievances and asked the state government as to how it would provide proper machinery to them to address the problem. Kumar also suggested the states to develop a mechanism so that farmers could solve such issues themselves.
The tribunal directed the Punjab government to submit a list of power plants and any other industries that might use crop residue. It also sought a reply from the National Thermal Power Corporation Limited (NTPC) as to why it could not take the crop residue under its Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) scheme for the “general cause of environment”. The green panel also sought a response from both the states on whether the burial of crop residue would benefit the soil in the long run.
During the hearing, the NGT posed various questions before the farmers before passing the directions while over a hundred ryots gathered outside its premises. Advocate I G Kapila, appearing for the farmers, referred to various newspaper reports and said that the problem was serious.
The NGT had on October 11 directed Punjab to produce the farmers after the state said it had provided assistance to them to encourage them not to burn crop residue. The Punjab government had earlier said they had taken Kalar Majri village in Nabha Tehsil of Patiala district as a model project for implementing the directions of the NGT.
The green panel had asked the state government to look into the problems faced by the farmers and directed its counsel to seek instructions on whether compensation could be provided to them for disposing of their agricultural residue. It had warned the governments of Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan that it would stop the payment of salaries of government officials if they failed to come up with an action plan to prevent stubble burning.