PUNJAB’S 20-DAY “crop stubble burning” produced around 10,000 tonnes of particulate matter, including 9,000 tonnes of PM 2.5, which is considered a “dangerous pollutant” affecting respiratory system, the Delhi High Court was informed on Thursday. Observing that “around 14 million tonnes” of paddy residue had been burnt by farmers in Punjab between October and November, the bench had in November directed the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) to conduct a study on the “exact amount of emissions per tonne” created by the post-harvest burning.
The report was shown to the bench of Justice Badar Durrez Ahmed and Justice Ashutosh Kumar on Thursday indicating that each tonne of crop residue emitted 0.74 kg of PM 10, which included 0.67 kg of PM 2.5. The remaining particles were larger. One tonne of crop residue also emits about 10.8 kg of carbon monoxide, which causes respiratory diseases and leads to global warming. Oxides of nitrogen, sulphur dioxide and ammonia are other major pollutants released by the crop residue, according to the report.
“This is only Punjab, what about emissions from UP, Haryana, Rajasthan? Is there anything that can undo this accumulation of PM in the air?” asked the bench. The bench also observed that the pollutants were “increasing” every year as there is no way to remove the particulate matter from the “system”. “It will remain in the air and come down with the rain to join the soil and water. Every year there is more coming in,” observed the bench.
The court has now asked the Punjab government to file a report on steps being taken to stop crop burning. The CPCB has also been directed to create a “plan of action” to reduce pollutants. The High Court had taken suo motu cognizance of the levels of air pollution in the capital in form of a PIL initiated in February 2015.
The bench on Thursday asked the NCR Planning Board (NCRPB) to consider a representation including the data collected by amicus curiae senior advocate Kailash Vasdev in its meeting scheduled for December 20. The NCRPB is expected to look into the issue of air pollution in the NCR, including crop burning, deforestation and various proposed measures to reduce pollution levels.
Meanwhile, the Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC) informed the bench that the “average air quality” in Delhi was “better” than what is indicated by the data of the Air Quality Index. The DPCC said that data coming out of the air quality monitoring station at Anand Vihar was “pushing up” the recorded pollution levels. “The monitoring station is a road curb station which measures traffic emissions also, and does not give clear picture of ambient air quality,” DPCC senior scientist M P George said.
The bench has now asked the DPCC to file a report on the “average” air quality index for Delhi without including the data coming out of the Anand Vihar AQI station.