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Air pollution worries resurface as crop burning by farmers continues unchecked

Despite stern warnings by no less than the Supreme Court last year, paddy stubble burning by framers continue unabated in Punjab and other parts as experts fear that North India will again struggle to breathe this winter.

September 25, 2020 / 10:33 PM IST

Last November, the Supreme Court of India pulled up the Punjab and Haryana governments for their inability to prevent pollution caused by stubble burning despite previous orders. The Bench of Justices Arun Mishra and Deepak Gupta while calling Delhi “worse than hell” said toxic fumes over the Capital from stubble in the two neighbouring states were “reminiscent of an internal war”.

“Why are people being forced to live in gas chambers?” asked Justice Mishra, now retired.

Strong words as these were, and coming from no less than India’s top court, one would have been forgiven for expecting a sea change in the state of affairs this year.

Truth is stubble burning has not missed a beat and is back in all its raging ferocity ahead of harvesting season. Satellite images from the United States space agency, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (Nasa) have shown that the farmers have started burning the crop residue in parts of Punjab and Haryana. Data from Nasa’s fire information for resource management system (FIRMS) shows a gradual jump in detection of fires in farmlands in recent days.