Expressing dissatisfaction over steps taken by the states to curb stubble burning, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) has said that just like enforcing law to prevent other crimes, the state governments have to own responsibility to prevent air pollution.
The green court said the fact remains that in spite of efforts made by the authorities, crop burning still takes place on the ground level with all its adverse consequences on public health and environment for which no officer is being held accountable.
"Just like enforcing law to prevent other crimes, the state has to own responsibility to enforce law to prevent pollution. The states are not doing this effectively. The states must take appropriate action against failure of its officers for preventing pollution caused by crop burning in such manner as may be appropriate," said green court NGT.
"The strategy may be creating awareness, giving incentives or taking punitive action. It is unfortunate that the states have failed to perform their duty and have merely pleaded helplessness on the ground that whatever action was possible have been taken," the tribunal said in its order uploaded on Wednesday.
The NGT said that even after information from satellite imagery there is hardly any tangible action to stop violations.
The Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981 provides for prohibiting burning of any material which is likely to cause air pollution and enforcing such prohibition in an appropriate manner including prosecution and recovery of compensation.
"Air pollution has adverse consequences on public health. Pollution-free environment is the right of every citizen and obligation of every state. This being the legal position, stand of the centre and the states that they are helpless is unacceptable," a bench headed by NGT Chairperson Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel said.
Voicing concern, the bench said that even in five years if the state machinery is not able to communicate to the farmers the techniques of sowing crops without burning of the crop residue of the paddy, it is an "unhappy situation" which needs to be remedied.
The bench further said, "If an incentive is to be given, it is for the state to decide and provide for the same. Even central funds or schemes are not fully utilised. It is undisputed that in-situ degradation of paddy residue is useful to the soil fertility while burning of crop results in requiring more fertilizer and less yield and damage to the soil. Such desirable result has to be ensured by the state by proper monitoring."
"Failure in this regard cannot be a ground not to enforce the mandate of preventing pollution and a mechanism of immediate intervention to stop burning which is not shown to be happening. Linking of failure to demand for more subsidies from Central Government is not justified," the NGT said.
The tribunal directed the Centre and state governments to place on their respective websites the data of fire incidents, responsible officers for the subject of the entire areas and actions taken for the failures on daily basis. The tribunal directed the states to file an action-taken report by November 15, the next date of hearing.
It had ordered constitution of special cells in the office of the Delhi chief secretary and neighbouring states to monitor on daily basis the air pollution caused by burning of crop residue. Similar cells may be required at the offices of district magistrates or at such other levels as may be considered necessary by the state authorities, it said.