Supreme Court Proposes Measures to Tackle Delhi Pollution

Delhi Air Pollution Law Insider

LI Network

Published on: November 22, 2023 at 00:10 IST

In an effort to address the escalating air pollution crisis in the Delhi-National Capital Region (NCR), the Supreme Court has put forth recommendations aimed at discouraging stubble burning by farmers.

The court, led by Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Sudhanshu Dhulia, has suggested excluding farmers engaging in stubble burning from the benefits of the minimum support price (MSP) infrastructure.

This proposal is part of a comprehensive strategy to dissuade stubble burning in states such as Punjab, which contributes significantly to air pollution in Delhi.

As part of the suggested measures, the Supreme Court has advocated for the complete subsidization of baling machines for financially disadvantaged farmers.

The court proposes financing the operating costs of these machines to encourage the conversion of stubble into valuable byproducts. These byproducts can then be sold for profit by the state government, offering a viable alternative to stubble burning.

The court’s recommendations come in response to a batch of pleas highlighting the deteriorating air quality in the Delhi-NCR region. The court had previously directed the Commission for Air Quality Management (CAQM) to submit a report detailing steps taken to address the worsening air quality, with stubble burning identified as a major contributor.

Earlier this month, the Supreme Court, emphasizing the urgency of the situation, instructed the governments of Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan, and Uttar Pradesh to halt stubble burning immediately.

The responsibility for enforcing this ban was delegated to local state house officers under the supervision of chief secretaries and police chiefs.

The court also called for a reevaluation of the Punjab Preservation of Subsoil Water Act, 2009, and advocated phasing out the cultivation of certain paddy varieties contributing to pollution.

During recent hearings, the court expressed concerns over farm fires, particularly in Punjab, urging governments to implement emergency measures for immediate fire control and long-term strategies for crop replacement. The court emphasized the need for a balanced approach, combining monetary incentives and punitive measures, leaving the execution to the discretion of the executive.

The court acknowledged the challenges faced by smaller farmers who find it difficult to invest in baling machines, pointing out the disparity in landholding sizes.

To address this, the court suggested offering machinery to smaller farmers free of cost, allowing them to benefit from the sale of byproducts. The court also underscored the importance of discouraging the cultivation of paddy and exploring alternatives to ensure the sustainability of agriculture in the region.

The Supreme Court has called for a coordinated effort by state and union governments to find effective solutions, warning that continued inaction will result in summoning chief secretaries for resolution.

The court remains focused on improving air quality and promoting sustainable agricultural practices in the region.

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