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Delhi breathes uneasy as farm fires rage in Punjab, Haryana

Delhi breathes uneasy as farm fires rage in Punjab, Haryana
The Delhi high court’s orders notwithstanding, paddy stubble in farmlands across Punjab and Haryana are going up in smoke, triggering a pollution alarm in the national Capital.

A glance at NASA’s ‘Web Fire Mapper’ shows that red dots, that denote fire, have increased exponentially over Punjab, Haryana and parts of Uttar Pradesh in the last fortnight. Images show that the red dots were concentrated in areas, bordering Pakistan and northern Punjab, before October 6. But soon after, fires started dotting the region bordering Delhi, plumes from which may engulf the city soon.

Delhi Environment Minister Imran Hussain said this time around the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government’s focus would be on tackling the annual menace before the winter sowing season. “I have already written to the neighbouring state governments in this regard. I will also arrange a meeting with them to ensure that corrective steps are taken and things do not remain limited to mere words and letters,” Hussain said.

Also, as per data put out by monitoring agencies, including the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC) and SAFAR, the Capital’s air quality is slowly plunging from ‘moderate’ to ‘poor’ levels.

“The situation will deteriorate as the pollutants enter Delhi in the next three to four days. But again, that depends on wind direction and speed. The air quality has been fluctuating between poor and moderate levels, but it will slowly turn poor with falling temperature,” a senior weather scientist, not wanting to be named, said.

The recurrence of the annual phenomenon establishes that the warning of authorities, including the Delhi high court, Delhi government and the Supreme Court-appointed Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority have fallen on deaf ears.

In fact, stubble-burning seems to have picked despite the Delhi government writing to the neighbouring states and the Union Environment Ministry to take effective steps for prevention of burning of agriculture residue on October 4.

On October 6, a High Court Bench had made it clear it would hold the Chief Secretaries of Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh responsible if the orders of the National Green Tribunal (NGT) and the court were not implemented in this regard. This assumes importance in the light of findings that a lion’s share of pollutants that engulf the national Capital, especially during winter, originates outside the city.

A report, prepared by TERI and the University of California, San Diego, found that in-house sources contribute just about 32 per cent to Delhi's pollution.
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