India Supreme Court orders states surrounding New Delhi to stop burning crops over high pollution levels News
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India Supreme Court orders states surrounding New Delhi to stop burning crops over high pollution levels

India’s Supreme Court on Tuesday ordered  officials in the states surrounding New Delhi to prohibit farmers from burning crop residue because the air quality in the area reached hazardous pollution levels this past week.

The Supreme Court stated, “We direct the state government of Punjab and adjacent states to Delhi – Haryana, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh – to ensure that crop (residue) burning is stopped forthwith.” The court assigned the local police station the responsibility of implementing the court’s orders.

The National Green Tribunal (NGT)’s chief bench also took suo moto note—meaning without either of the parties involved in the case requesting it—of worsening air pollution in Delhi on Friday. The tribunal cited several newspaper articles highlighting the declining air quality index. The tribunal passed an order directing the Delhi authorities to take action conforming to the Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP) to keep the Air Quality of India (AQI) in control.

Since June, the Delhi government has taken steps to combat pollution. Recently, it halted local development, closed elementary schools till November 10, and announced it will impose car restriction next week. Still, the government wants neighboring states to manage crop residue burning.

Every year, air quality suffers before the winter season because calm and cold breezes trap pollution from automobiles, industry, construction dust and agricultural waste burning. Farmers in Punjab and Haryana typically burn crop stubble left behind after harvesting rice in late October or early November to clear their fields rapidly before planting wheat crops. According to the federal government’s air-quality monitoring organization SAFAR, the practice has been carried out for years, and the resulting smoke has generally accounted for 30 to 40 percent of Delhi’s October-November pollution.

The court granted similar orders in years past. However, the orders have had limited effect since state authorities alleged an inability to control the burning, despite fines and farmers’ occasional antagonism towards state officials.