‘Toxic clouds’ to continue endangering human lives in north India over next week

Due to continuing stubble burning in Punjab and Haryana, the smoke is likely to plunge both the states, as well as the national capital Delhi, in thick smog and mist

Photo courtesy: Twitter
Photo courtesy: Twitter

Bipin Bhardwaj

The ‘toxic clouds’ in the air will continue to endanger human lives in the Northern region over the next one week, with more incidents of stubble burning being reported in Punjab and Haryana.

The air quality is going to worsen the health of people by plunging both the states, as well as the national capital Delhi, in thick smog and mist.

Environmentalists are of the view that the situation will start improving next week and by November 15 the air pollution would be under control completely.

Besides farm fires and other sources of air pollution, burning of stubbles by politically influenced farmers is another major reason reported from Punjab.

The incidents of stubble burning have gone up tremendously in Kapurthala district, which is hosting the 550th birth celebrations of Guru Nanak Dev ji this time, contended a senior official of Punjab Agriculture Department.

According to reports, Karnal, the home district of Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar, is among the worst polluted cities of Haryana, besides Jind, Sonipat, Kaithal, Sirsa, Gurugram, Faridabad, Fatehabad, Bahadurgarh and Manesar. Jind recorded an Air Quality Index (AQI) of 480 on Friday evening, followed by Rohtak (467), Bhiwani (466), Sirsa (462), Hisar (456), Sonipat (446) and Fatehabad (393). Comparatively, most of the Haryana cities recorded “poor” quality air than Punjab where the AQI was 321 in Khanna due to industrial smoke from Mandi Gobindgarh. The only city that recorded an AQI of 400 was Bathinda, followed by Amritsar (294), Jalandhar (289), Ludhiana (297), Ropar (251), and Patiala (251).

Taking a serious note of the menace, both Punjab and Haryana claim to have put officials of Agriculture, Pollution and Police departments on their toes. A blanket ban on stubble burning has been imposed besides bringing all construction works at a halt. Curbs have also been put over hot mix plants, stone crushing units, coal use industrial units and other establishments causing air pollution for the next week.

“Stubble burning is not the sole reason behind the ‘severe’ air quality in the state,” claims S Narayanan, Member Secretary, Haryana State Pollution Control Board, adding that there were numerous other factors responsible for it.

He claimed that the government has decided to generate awareness among school students. Directions have been given to all Deputy Commissioners, District Education Officers and District Elementary Education Officers to ensure strict compliance with instructions issued to them. The concerned officers have been directed to encourage farmers not to burn crop residue and also apprise them about different options for the management of crop residue so as to conserve the environment, he said.

In Punjab, the air quality index has drastically gone down with the state recording 2268 farm fires till October 31. The state’s six districts including Kapurthala, Gurdaspur, Amritsar, Bathinda, Mansa and Muktsar reported over 1,000 cases of stubble burning each. The highest number of crop burning incidents continue to be reported from Sangrur (355) followed by Ferozepur (290) and Bathinda (233).

The figures for other districts are: Amritsar (30), Barnala (125), Fatehgarh Sahib (47), Faridkot (105), Fazilka (53), Gurdaspur (43), Hoshiarpur (17), Jalandhar (77), Kapurthala (79), Ludhiana (87), Mansa (142), Moga (133), Muktsar (148), Patiala (193) and Tarn Taran (94).

Talking to National Herald, Karunesh Garg, Member Secretary, Punjab Pollution Control Board, said that the incidents of farm fires have gone down in this year with the governments and central agencies mounting more pressure on the farmers besides motivating them to prevent stubble burning. “The farm fires have been brought down by 2.5 lakh hectare this year compared to the previous year,” he added.

Garg, however, maintained that the menace of stubble burning will take some more years to end as it is quite tedious to make farmers change their old behaviour. Now some educated and progressive farmers have started voluntarily coming forward against stubble burning and showing the way to others, he claimed.

SK Airi, Director, Punjab Agriculture Department, however, revealed that certain farmer union leaders and leaders of political parties are instigating farmers for stubble burning for vested interests at the cost of human lives in the state.

He, however, claimed that the department has directed all field officers and official to be on field visits every day after 12.30 PM to keep a close tab on the unhealthy practice of burning paddy stubble. After a widespread campaign to educate farmers, now stringent action is being initiated against violators to safeguard the environment as well as human health, he added.

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