We did start the fire: Punjab & Haryana farmers burn stubble prompting High Court to send notice to Centre; CMs of 5 states in a huddle as North India braces for deadly cocktail of winter pollution and COVID-19 | Photo: Research Matters

Crop burning already: ‘‘Early varieties’ of crops being harvested

Crop residue burning, one of the main causes of air pollution in Delhi and north India has already started in Punjab and Haryana. The fires were caught by satellite images from NASA. They started in Amritsar on September 13 with a couple of fires, which jumped to 62 fires on September 20. The farm fires shroud much of the region, including Delhi, into a pollution crisis in the run up to the winter and reach their peak in mid-October. 

Last year, fires started early on September 25. A senior official of the Punjab Pollution Control Board (PPCB) said that these fires were signs of ‘early varieties’ of crops being harvested. 

The Delhi High Court sought the Centre’s reply over a plea that said smoke from crop residue burning would worsen the COVID-19 crisis in the national Capital. The plea sought the centre to be directed to hold a meeting between chief secretaries of Delhi, Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh to address the issue. 

The Centre told the court the states were warned not to allow farmers to burn crop stubble, but despite threats of legal action and penalties, farmers were burning the residue. Amidst farmer agitations over the farm bills, farmer leaders said farm fires may continue this year, too, in the absence of adequate monetary support to small farmers to use straw management machinery.

The air in Indo-Gangetic plains has already started deteriorating. According to the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), some areas have entered the ‘poor’ category of air quality, especially in Delhi.

Five CMs meet to review implementation of air pollution plan

Ahead of the dreaded season of winter pollution that descends upon north India mid-October, the chief ministers of Delhi, Haryana, Punjab, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh will meet on October 1 to review the performance of the air pollution control plan that was launched four years ago in 2016. 

Union environment minister Prakash Javdekar said the meeting was to assess preparedness for this winter and review implementation of the short-term, medium-term and long-term plans launched in 2016. State pollution control boards, municipal corporations and various urban bodies, like Delhi Development Authority and New Delhi Municipal Council, will attend the virtual meeting.

CSE report: 65% coal plants ‘lax and laid back’ about green deadline 

Around 65% of India’s coal plants will miss the 2022 deadline to meet environmental norms. A new assessment by the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) states that a very large number of coal-fired power plants in India continue to be completely ‘lax and laid back’ when it comes to getting ready to meet the deadline.

Power plants account for over 60% of the total PM emissions from all industry, as well as 45% of the SO2, 30% of NOx and over 80% of the mercury emissions. The latest CSE assessment, which has noted the progress till August 2020, said only 56% of the total capacity complies with the new PM norms and a mere 35% are in compliance with the SO2 norms.

Canada launches anti-air pollution fund with VW fine money 

Money paid by Volkswagen as a fine has been put to best community use by Canada. The country has launched a Climate Action and Awareness Fund that will back projects to curb emissions with the bulk of the money. The fund will create jobs for Canadians in science and technology, academia, and at the grassroots community level.

The $157 million fund is part of the government’s new Climate Action and Awareness Fund, which seeks to boost climate science research by empowering youth and communities. Canada approved a C$196.5 million fine against Volkswagen after the company pleaded guilty to dozens of counts of diesel emissions violations. The fine was by far the largest environmental penalty in Canadian history, prosecutors said. The minister also announced a C$50 million investment over three years towards a number of priorities such as supporting additional research to bring down the country’s emission to net-zero.

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