The National Green Tribunal has deprecated the approach of the authorities concerned for not taking “consistent, adequate measures” to prevent the farm fire incidents in Punjab.
The tribunal also observed that even the Punjab chief secretary’s communication to immediately stop the incidents was “not fruitful.”
The NGT was hearing a matter where it had taken suo motu (on its own) cognisance of a newspaper report regarding the rise in air pollution because of stubble fires in Punjab.
A bench of NGT Chairperson Justice Prakash Shrivastava said at 10 am on Monday, the tribunal took note of the satellite image of Punjab, which showed the entire state in red colour.
The bench also comprising judicial member Justice Sudhir Agarwal and expert member A Senthil Vel said when the matter was taken up in suo motu on October 20, Punjab had witnessed only 656 farm fires but at present, the cumulative number of farm fires incidents reported according to Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) protocol was 33,719.
“We find that even with respect to the cumulative active fire incidents reported as per ISRO protocol, adequate action has not been taken,” the bench said.
It said in 32 cases, proceedings were initiated under provisions of the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, while 829 FIRs were registered under the penal provisions.
Taking note of the chart submitted by the state’s counsel, the bench said, “All the persons involved in the farm fire incidents have not been treated uniformly but a selective approach has been adopted by registering FIRs against some, by prosecuting some under the Air Act, by imposing environmental compensation against others and by making the red entry in some cases.”
It said the counsel had failed to disclose the reasons for this “selective action”.
The bench said on November 15, there were as many as 2,544 farm fire incidents. It said the chart of farm incidents from November 9 to 19 reflected that “consistent adequate measures have not been taken” to prevent the incident.
This was despite the matter being pending in the NGT and the issue also being considered by the Supreme Court, the bench said.
“We also noticed that even the chief secretary in his communication dated November 14 has expressed that high numbers of fire incidents which were reflected on November 13 and 14 (which) were totally unacceptable and (he) had directed the authorities to accord top priority to control the incident of stubble burning and ensure that such incidents are immediately reduced to zero,” the bench said.
“But the chart reflects that even the said communication of the chief secretary has not brought about any fruitful results,” the bench said.
The green panel noted that the state’s counsel had submitted that all possible measures would be taken, besides seeking time to file a “further report indicating positive results.”
The matter has been listed on November 29 for further proceedings.