CHANDIGARH: National Green Tribunal (NGT) Chairman Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel on Saturday said there is need to create awareness among farmers to effectively tackle the problem of stubble burning as growers still fear that their fields will not be ready for sowing of the next crop without burning paddy straw.
He also said the enforcement of environmental laws was not intended to stop or harm industrial activities which would instead get a major boost if appropriate compliance of such laws was ensured.
Talking to reporters on the sidelines of a regional conference on environment here, Justice Goel said there are enough laws to make industry accountable on the issue of pollution but the government and local bodies are not taking steps towards the same.
Stressing on the need for efficient sewage and solid waste management, he said if we do not act right now to maintain an ecological balance we will have to face devastation.
"If we all work together, it (pollution-related problems such as stubble burning) is not a big problem," the green panel chief said, adding that there was no conflict between environmental laws and industry.
Asked about the problem of stubble burning and its effects on the environment, Justice Goel said, "Residue of paddy needs to be tackled and in my opinion, the major factor is to create awareness.
It is a fear in the minds of people (farmers) that if you do not burn it (crop residue), their land will not be ready (for sowing of next crop)".
The green panel chief said land could be ploughed even without burning crop residue and there are a large number of farmers who do not burn it.
When a reporter pointed out that some farmers in the state had complained that their wheat crop got infested with insects after they deposited straw on the fields, he said there would be some other reasons behind the infestation.
"I discussed with agricultural scientists and they said it is not necessary to burn paddy straw at all," he said.
Acknowledging that there was lack of complete awareness among farmers on the issue of ill-effects of stubble burning, Justice Goel said there was also need for demonstrating benefits of the practice of straw management to farmers.
"The paddy straw can be used in various industries like brick kilns," he said, adding that spreading awareness among farmer to deal with stubble burning "is not a big problem".
He further said that apart from stubble burning, there are several other sources of pollution and there is need for continuous action to tackle it.
Pointing out that there are 351 river stretches in the country which are polluted, Justice Goel said he has asked all Chief Secretaries that penalty would be imposed after a certain date for discharging pollutants in sewage.
Earlier, addressing the conference, the NGT Chairman called on all stakeholders to act together to address environmental pollution including air, water, sewerage and solid waste management.
Assuring full support and cooperation from the green panel, he categorically said that there was no dearth of funds and people were willing to extend all possible cooperation as clean environment was an issue of "great urgency".
Justice Goel said that industrial activities should be carried out without harming the environment and it was possible to do so.
Urging Punjab and Haryana governments to remove landfills from both states and restore the land occupied by piles of garbage, he said the country had over 4,100 garbage dumping sites in 4,100 cities, which could be leveraged for business and employment opportunities.
He said these sites were generating harmful gases and creating environmental and health hazards besides occupying large chunks of lands.
By disposing of 10 per cent land of garbage dumps, 90 per cent could be converted into forest so as to increase the green cover, he said.
Exhorting the industry and agrarian sectors to start using treated sewerage water, Justice Goel said effective management of sewerage water was much-needed.
Treated solid sewerage could be used as manure while sewerage water for industrial and agriculture purposes, he said.