Tribune News Service
Patiala, October 31
The “failure” of the Punjab Pollution Control Board (PPCB) in curbing stubble burning has deteriorated air quality in the state, so much so that it has earned the wrath of the National Green Tribunal (NGT). This is not all. The PPCB has also failed to act tough against water-polluting industries and Municipal Corporations.
Noted environmentalist Balbir Singh Seechewal says, “Industrialists are the major fundraisers for political parties during elections, while farmers are a big vote bank. We are not against the industry or farmers. We are for implementing environmental laws. But the problem is PPCB field officers and seniors are in cahoots with the industry-farmer nexus. This has to stop. The PPCB needs to act now.”
Poor air quality
The PPCB passes the buck when it comes to stubble burning. It says the onus is on the district administrations to check the menace.
On Wednesday, the state recorded the highest number (3,135) of stubble burning incidents this harvesting season, as per the data of the Punjab Remote Sensing Centre. With this, the total number of farm fires has reached 19,869 so far. The state’s air quality index was 292, which falls in the “poor” bracket.
Karunesh Garg, PPCB member secretary, says: “We are monitoring the situation. The responsibility to fine or arrest farmers accused of burning stubble is with Deputy Commissioners.”
To a query that why the PPCB was waiting for the government nod to act against erring farmers even through it was an independent body, he said the board had forwarded some recommendations to the government and, soon, strict action would be taken against farmers.
The Supreme Court had, on February 22, 2017, fixed a three-month deadline for industrial units across the country to establish effluent treatment plants (ETP), failing which they would not be allowed to operate. The PPCB had issued notices in that regard, but the industry and Municipal Corporations did not adhere to the direction.
On Wednesday, the Punjab and Haryana High Court ordered shutting down of all tanneries in Jalandhar’s leather complex till further orders.
“The issue concerning Jalandhar tanneries is an internal tussle among industries. The PPCB is only a regulator,” a PPCB official says.
Save Ghaggar: NGT
In September, a monitoring panel constituted by the National Green Tribunal to check pollution in the Ghaggar questioned the working of the PPCB. The Justice Pritam Pal-headed panel directed the PPCB to slap a fine of Rs50 lakh each as “environmental compensation” on four Patiala-based industries.
In the executive committee report submitted to the NGT on September 30, the panel also rapped the Punjab Pollution Control Board on the manner of its inspection of such industries.
The panel further found that 30 towns had been identified directly or indirectly discharging sewage into the Ghaggar, and recommended installation of sewage-treatment plants (STPs).
“The NGT orders expresses tribunal’s point of view and I cannot comment on it. The board regularly monitors industries,” PPCB member secretary Garg says.
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