The Supreme Court on Tuesday directed governments of Delhi, Haryana, Punjab, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh to file affidavits stating the measures they have taken to curb air pollution and stubble burning, Live Law reported.

This was after the Commission for Air Quality Management reiterated in a report that one of the reasons for the air pollution in the National Capital Region was stubble burning.

Air quality plunges in the winter months in Delhi, which is often ranked the world’s most polluted capital. Stubble burning in Punjab and Haryana is one of the factors that contribute to air pollution in the region, along with falling temperatures, low wind speed and emissions from industries and coal-fired plants.

In its report, the Commission for Air Quality Management said that the incidents of stubble burning have decreased in Punjab and Haryana between September 15 and October 24, reported The Indian Express.

The report showed that while Punjab recorded 5,617 incidents of stubble burning during the period in 2022, there were only 2,306 such incidents for the same time frame in 2023. Haryana had 1,360 fires in 2022, compared to 813 in 2023 during this period.

“With persistent field level efforts and targeted policy initiatives in the short/medium/long term, it is expected that instances of paddy stubble burning in Punjab, Haryana and NCR areas of UP will see gradual but marked improvement, year on year, with a consequent improvement in the air quality of Delhi-NCR during the paddy harvesting season,” it added.

The Supreme Court, however, said that statistics can sometimes be deceptive, stating that the air pollution problem persists.

The court order came on the day the Union government’s Air Quality Early Warning System predicted the Air Quality Index in Delhi to remain in the “very poor” category for the next three days, reported The Hindu.

On Wednesday, the overall AQI in Delhi stood at 346 as of 12 pm, according to real-time figures shared by the System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting And Research. The air quality index between 300 and 400 falls under the “very poor” category.

Monitoring stations at six places in Delhi – Anand Vihar (417), Mundka (411), New Moti Bagh (434), Punjabi Bagh (401), Sonia Vihar (400) and Wazirpur (421) – registered air quality in the “severe” category at 12 pm on Wednesday, according to data on the Central Pollution Control Board’s website.

An air quality index ranging between 401 and 500 falls under the “severe” category. A reading of above 400 can affect healthy people and seriously impact those with existing illnesses.

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