New Delhi: The National Green Tribunal (NGT) today sought response from the Centre and states of Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh on a plea which claimed that burning of agricultural residue in these states is not only polluting the environment but also causes smog in the national capital.
A bench headed by NGT Chairperson Justice Swatanter Kumar also issued notice and sought responses of the Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority (EPA) and the pollution control boards of the three states by the next date of hearing on July 1.
The Tribunal was hearing an application filed by UP-based environmentalist Vikrant Tongad who alleged that burning of agricultural residue, like straw, in Punjab, Haryana and UP is causing air pollution not only in these states but also in the National Capital Region of Delhi.
Seeking a ban on burning of agricultural residue, Tongad submitted that the burning of biomass is prohibited as per EPA guidelines but despite that state pollution control boards are doing nothing to stop such practices of farmers.
In his plea, filed through advocates Rahul Choudhary and Parul Gupta, Tongad sought directions to concerned authorities as well as these states to take steps to stop the practice of burning of agricultural residue/biomass.
He said burning of biomass contributes significantly to global warming and also affects the health of children as well as adults by causing various respiratory diseases.
Burning of agricultural residue in the northern states pollute the air and more specifically create smog in the National Capital Region of Delhi, the application said.
"The smoke can also harm human health, aggravating heart and lung diseases. Older adults, children and people with chronic health conditions are at risk," it said.
In his application, Tongad said these states have two or more growing seasons and prior to planting seeds, farmers set their fields on fire to clear any standing straw from the previous harvest.
He referred to pictures released by National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), on November 5, 2012 showing huge amount of smoke emerging from fields in Punjab due to burning of straw and travelling towards Delhi.
Tongad also said agricultural crop residues are burnt during the months of October and November each year in the Indo-Gangetic Plains (IGP) and the resultant smoke has significant impact on greenhouse gas emissions.
Apart from ban on burning of agricultural residue, he sought directions to the state authorities to develop other options to utilise and dispose of agricultural residue.
He sought regular monitoring by the Centre, state PCBs and EPA at the time of harvesting to stop the practice of burning agricultural residue.