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Supreme Court intervention to halt stubble burning Punjab, Haryana, UP, Rajasthan.

  • Published
    8th Nov, 2023

As Delhi-NCR is battling severe air pollution, the Supreme Court on Tuesday directed the Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan governments to ensure that the crop residue burning was stopped “forthwith”, saying it cannot let “people die” due to air pollution.

Highlights of SC Direction: The residents of Delhi have been struggling with health issues because they don’t seem to find a solution year after year to the aggravated problem of pollution at this time of the year. That part of the year passes, and it goes on to the next year. This has been an ongoing process for five years. It is time that something is done as of yesterday rather than postpone it.

Air Pollution Level in Delhi NCR:

  • AQI – Very Poor: Pollution levels in Delhi marginally dipped in early November and were recorded in the “very poor” category after five consecutive days of severe air quality. The national capital's Air Quality Index (AQI) stood at 394 on 8th Nov, a marginal improvement from the 421 recorded on 6th
  • AQI in Surrounding States: Several cities in neighbouring Haryana, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh have also reported hazardous air quality in early November. Ghaziabad recorded an AQI of 338, Gurgaon 364, Noida 348, Greater Noida 439 and Faridabad 382.

National Air Quality Index (NAQI)

  • The National Air Quality Index, which tracks India's air quality index, was introduced in New Delhi in September 2014 as part of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan.
  • Governmental organizations are in charge of informing the public about health risks and how to prevent them.
  • The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) has established a committee of specialists consisting of SPCBs, academicians, medical professionals, and experts in air quality.
  • IIT Kanpur was given a technical study as well. IIT Kanpur and the expert panel recommended an AQI program for India in 2014.
  • A real-time data tracking system for continuous monitoring is in place in six Indian cities: Ahmedabad, New Delhi, Kolkata, Mumbai, and Pune.


Impact of Poor Air Quality:

  • PM – 2.5: Despite the marginal dip, the concentration of PM2.5 -- fine particulate matter capable of penetrating deep into the respiratory system and triggering health problems -- exceeded the government-prescribed safe limit of 60 micrograms per cubic metre by seven to eight times in the capital.
  • WHO healthy limit: The PM 2.5 was 30 to 40 times the healthy limit of 15 micrograms per cubic metre set by the World Health Organisation.

Supreme Court direction to improve Air Quality in Delhi NCR:

  • While hearing a matter pertaining to the debilitating air pollution in Delhi-NCR, the Supreme Court flagged issues like crop residue burning, vehicular pollution and burning of waste in the open.
  • The top court is seized of a plea filed in 1985 by environmentalist M.C. Mehta on air pollution and the issue of crop residue burning cropped up during the hearing of the PIL.
  • Noting that air pollution persists in the national capital despite several remedial steps having been taken by the Commission for Air Quality Management (CAQM), the Supreme Court had on October 31 directed Delhi, Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan governments to file affidavits listing the measures initiated by them to control it.
  • The top court also directed the Delhi government to ensure that municipal solid waste was not burnt in the open and posted the matter for further hearing on Friday.

Way Forward:

  • The National Air Quality Index assigns pollutants a weight based on their environmental and human health impact.
  • It then generates a composite number and a color to convey daily air quality, allowing the public to understand local pollution levels and their health implications.
  • While the AQI has some technical limitations, prompt measures are taken to address malfunctions and ensure its reliability, underscoring its role in educating and raising awareness among the public.
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