False Assurances: CMs of Punjab, Haryana, Delhi and UP have been summoned by the Supreme Court for yet another year of failure to control farm stubble burning in north India | Photo: Financial Express

Top court summons chief secys of 4 states over stubble burning incidents

As crop stubble burning begins ahead of the season, the Supreme Court of India has asked the top officers (chief secretaries) of the states of Haryana, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh and Delhi to be present in court through video conferencing on October 16. The court passed the summons after it was informed the four states have repeatedly given false assurances year after year saying that all measures have been taken and the required machinery is there to lift the stubble from the fields but nothing is done and stubble continues to be burned. Nasa had taken images of mounds of stubble and the fires. 

According to official data, the first six days of October saw five times the number of stubble-burning incidents (1,091 incidents) in Punjab, Haryana, and Uttar Pradesh compared to the corresponding period of last year. The largest number of stubble-burning events during October 1-6 took place in Punjab – 841, followed by Haryana (188) and UP (62).

Experts say the reason for early stubble burning is that the farmers have shifted crops from long-duration paddy varieties to short-duration paddy varieties. Those who wish to sow potatoes in the first week of October, clear the fields by burning the crop residue. 

Delhi gets ‘Green War Room’ to fight air pollution

The Delhi government has set up a ‘Green War Room’ to fight air pollution. The war room will be closely monitoring air quality index, real-time air pollution levels, and stubble burning instances in neighbouring states. The war room will have a 10-member expert team under two senior scientists of the Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC),  The team will monitor the levels of primary pollutants, measures taken to curb pollution and status of complaints received through Green Delhi mobile application. Satellite data related to farm fires in the neighbouring states will also be analysed in the green war room.  

Delhi environment minister Gopal Rai said there are different agencies working to deal with the problem of air pollution in Delhi. The green war room has been set up to coordinate their efforts, Rai said. The war room will monitor satellite images from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) pertaining to stubble burning in real-time. Rai said guidelines to check dust pollution at construction and demolition sites, ready-mix concrete plants, and garbage burning will be strictly implemented. 

Meanwhile, according to the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) bulletin, air quality in the national capital turned ‘poor’ for the first time this season on October 7, 2020, and is expected to deteriorate further.

India remains world’s largest emitter of sulphur dioxide, emissions see drop in 2019: Report

According to Greenpeace India and the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air (CREA), India’s sulphur dioxide (SO2) emissions fell significantly by 6% in 2019, compared to 2018. Sulphur dioxide is a poisonous air pollutant that increases the risk of stroke, heart disease, lung cancer and premature death.

The report said India remains the world’s top emitter of SO2. In 2019, India emitted 21% of global anthropogenic (human-made) SO2 emissions, nearly double that of second-ranked global emitter, Russia. China occupies the third position. As per the report, the biggest emission hotspots in India are thermal power stations (or clusters of power stations) at Singrauli, Neyveli, Sipat, Mundra, Korba, Tamnar, Talcher, Jharsuguda, Kutch, Surat, Chennai, Ramagundam, Chandrapur, Visakhapatnam and Koradi.

NCRTC fined Rs50 lakh, FICCI Rs20 lakh for dust pollution

In a massive anti-dust campaign, the National Capital Region Transport Corporation (NCRTC) has been fined ₹50 lakh for not taking dust-control measures at its rapid Metro construction site. Environment minister Gopal Rai himself noticed uncovered mounds of dust at the NCRTC site near Vikas Sadan. 

The Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) was fined ₹20 lakh for violating dust control norms at a demolition site on Tansen Marg in New Delhi. FICCI was also directed to install an anti-smog gun and take other measures to prevent dust pollution at the project site.  It is mandatory to install anti-smog guns at construction and demolition sites larger than 20,000 square meters, according to government guidelines. 

The government has also imposed fines ranging between ₹20,000 and ₹5 lakh on 31 RMC plants for not taking measures to prevent dust pollution. Eleven of these plants have been told to stop work. The environment department has set up 14 inspection teams to check violations of pollution norms.

Air pollution particles in young brains can cause Alzheimer’s 

According to new research, air pollution particles seen in the brain stems of young people are intimately associated with molecular damage linked to Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.

Scientists have warned that if the groundbreaking discovery is confirmed by future research, it would have worldwide implications because 90% of the global population live with unsafe air. 

Experts pointed out that good statistical evidence already shows that higher exposure to air pollution increases rates of neurodegenerative diseases, but the new study says that it shows a possible physical mechanism by which the damage is done. The researchers found abundant pollution nanoparticles in the brainstems of 186 young people from Mexico City, who had died suddenly between the ages of 11 months and 27 years. They are likely to have reached the brain after being inhaled, or via the nose or gut.

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