The Punjab government today faced the wrath of the National Green Tribunal for not taking effective steps to provide financial assistance and infrastructure facility to the farmers to encourage them not to burn agricultural residue in their fields. A bench headed by Chairperson Justice Swatanter Kumar said that two years have elapsed since its verdict in the Vikrant Tongad case, in which it had passed a slew of directions to stop crop burning, but till date the state government has shown a lethargic approach. Asked the state government why it has not yet invited tenders to start biomass or pellet plants, the NGT directed it to submit the steps it has taken to stop stubble burning. “Tell us what steps have you taken since 2015 when we passed a detailed judgement. What have you done for setting up of biomass plants and pelletisation plants in the state? “Have you invited any thermal power plant to use agriculture residue? Did you provide any incentive or machines to the farmers? You people only know how to give speeches,” the bench, also comprising Justice Jawad Rahim and R S Rathore, said. The NGT expressed its anguish over the conduct of the state government in handling the issue of stubble burning which leads to air pollution, and said “we are shocked the way you people are behaving. You have not given a single advertisement to sensitise the farmers. None of you have taken any step to show that you have any meaningful interest in the matter”. The green panel said Punjab government has failed to tie up with any company, private or public, which can utilise the crop residue.
During the hearing, the counsel for the Punjab government told the bench that it had a meeting with the National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC) and come out with the conclusion that the price of crop residue should be capped at Rs 5,500 per tonne. The state government said the NTPC does not have any plant in the state and the nearest one was located at Dadri in UP. If the residue is taken so far it would escalate the cost of transportation making the project enviable. It also said that seven biomass plants and 24 cardboard manufacturing plants have been established which can utilise some of the agricultural residue.
The matter will be heard next on December 11. The tribunal had earlier directed the Delhi, Haryana, Punjab, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh governments to convene a meeting to work out a clear mechanism on transportation and use of stubble as fuel in power plants.