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Nov 13, 2017 04:55 PM IST | Source:

Stubble burning down by almost 45% in Punjab from last year

Only 42,025 stubble burning cases were recorded till November 11 this year, compared to 76,045 cases in the same period last year.

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Stubble burning in Punjab — considered to be the main culprit behind Delhi's worsening air quality — has fallen 44.73 percent from last year, the Indian Express reported.

Only 42,025 stubble burning cases were recorded till November 11 this year, compared to 76,045 cases in the same period last year, the data collected by NASA’s NPP_VIIRS satellite and available with the Punjab Pollution Control Board (PPCB) shows.

PPCB officials told Express that their target was to achieve a 50 percent decline in cases of burning stubble which remains on the field after the harvest of paddy crop in October. However, they fell short of meeting their target because Punjab chief minister Amrinder Singh had announced relaxation of penalties for offenders, giving them leeway.

Earlier this year, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) and the Punjab government had banned stubble burning. While many did not take heed of it, some sections of farmers also protested and challenged the ban by burning crop residue.

Meanwhile, air pollution in Delhi continued to worsen. On Monday, thick smog reduced visibility and the air quality remained at “hazardous” levels. Delhi’s average air quality index (AQI) was 460 on Sunday, which was close to this season’s high of 486 as recorded on November 9.

Sunday’s condition was due to a fall in temperature, increased cloud cover, less wind speed in lower altitudes, and winds at higher altitudes carrying pollutants from Punjab and Haryana, as per the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), the Hindustan Times reported.

What are the various causes behind Delhi smog?

The CPCB on Saturday informed the National Green Tribunal (NGT) that vehicular emissions contributes 20 percent to Delhi’s pollution. Two-wheelers are responsible for a third of the total vehicular emission.

In November, the Supreme Court had banned the sale of fireworks during Diwali in Delhi to stop repetition of last year’s situation where AQI stayed hazardous for days, affecting public life and health.

Nonetheless, the air quality during Diwali turned ‘severe’. SAFAR project director Gufran Beig told PTI that reduction in emissions from one particular source and reduction in levels of pollution are not linearly related or directly proportional. However, external contributions, such as stubble burning, did not exceed 10 percent of the total pollution load during Diwali period as wind speed was lower and did not carry in the pollutants, the SAFAR report said.

Over time, various studies by IIT Delhi, IIT Kanpur, and SAFAR have cited  road dusts, not stubble burning, as the constant source of air pollution. A study conducted by IIT-Kanpur found that 56 percent of PM10 (fine particle pollutant) was caused by road dust, 10 percent by industries, 10 percent by concrete batching and only 9 percent by motor vehicles. In the case of PM2.5 (finer than PM10), the share was — 38 percent by road dust, 20 percent by vehicles, 12 percent by domestic fuel and 11 percent by industry.

Other than road dusts, domestic and industrial sources contribute largely to pollution. If crop residue can be linked to biomass burning, as suggested by Urban Emissions, the IIT-kanpur study (2015) would peg the contribution of the source in the total pollution at around 19 percent. It would also include biomass used for cooking and heating as large part of Indian households are yet to start using LPG.

Options on the card

To fight air pollution, the AAP government is trying to implement the odd-even scheme, which allows odd-and even-license-numbered private vehicles on the roads on alternate days.

It hasn't been able to implement the scheme as NGT did not give a nod to the current scheme where female-driven cars and two-wheelers are excluded from it.

Following the developments, Transport minster Nitin Gadkari has sought a thorough research to identify major reasons contributing to the pollution. He said his ministry will extend all possible help in this regard.

In the meantime, the Supreme Court has agreed to hear fresh plea seeking immediate measures to reduce pollution in Delhi. The plea involves the Centre directing states on stubble burning, road dust and odd-even scheme implementation.
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