NEW DELHI: Stubble burning is the "main villain" behind the severe level of pollution in Delhi and the neighbouring areas, the Delhi High Court said today, as it asked the AAP government and the neighbouring states what steps they have taken to address the issue.
A bench of Justices S Ravindra Bhat and Sanjeev Sachdeva said October to January was a "critical period" when the air quality in Delhi is poor due to the weather conditions.
Stubble burning during this period acted as the "trigger" or is the "main villain" which leads the situation to deteriorate, it said.
"This becomes critical at this time. It (air quality) is already loaded (with dust), but stubble burning is the trigger. It becomes the main villain," the court said, adding that besides stubble burning, dust and construction debris also contribute towards the poor air quality.
While bringing stubble burning to a complete halt "will take time", the governments should at least try to enforce the regulations like mitigating construction dust generation, which can be done easily.
It asked the Delhi government what preventive measures it has taken to address the problem of dust.
The bench was hearing a PIL initiated by it in 2015 on the issue of poor air quality in the national capital.
Senior advocate Kailash Vasdev, who is the amicus curiae in the matter, told the court that its orders were not being complied with and therefore, it was time that action is taken against the concerned officials.
The Centre, represented by advocate Ajay Digpaul, told the bench the Environment Ministry has held meetings with all stakeholders and the issue of stubble burning was reviewed.
It also submitted that it was monitoring the burning of agricultural waste through satellite imagery provided by the respective state governments.
The Punjab government, meanwhile, has filed an affidavit before the court, claiming it has prohibited indiscriminate burning of agricultural waste in the entire state. It also said it was complying with all the directions issued by the court in its September 22 order.
The court, thereafter, asked the Delhi government and the states of Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Punjab and Rajasthan to place before it the steps taken by them to comply with the order of September 22 and listed the matter for further hearing on November 13.
The high court on September 22 had issued a slew of directions to the four neighbouring states to stop stubble burning, saying "we cannot have another gas chamber situation".
Apart from that the court had also directed them to "strictly" implement "in letter and spirit" the notifications issued by their respective governments under the Air Pollution Act banning such activity.
It had ordered them to direct all the companies and public sector undertakings involved in power generation, board and rough paper manufacture, cement production and others, to collect the crop residue from farmers in exchange of money as part of their corporate social responsibility.
If the companies do this, then the states or the Centre would not have to spend on prevention of stubble burning, the bench had said.