The National Green Tribunal on Thursday declined to pass an order on a plea challenging the Punjab government’s notification to advance paddy transplantation by a week in June, PTI reported. The top court said it will provide more window for the next crop and help improve air quality.

In a notification dated June 4, the state government had advanced paddy sowing date to June 13 from June 20 in Punjab after requests from various farmers’ organisations. A Punjab resident identified as Jai Gopal Dhiman challenged it.

A bench headed by NGT chairperson Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel said: “The fact remains that preponing the date will have more window for the next crop and help in the air quality. In view of above, we do not find any ground to pass any further order.”

A committee set up by the green panel said that shifting of transplanting date to June 20 will help save groundwater and check air pollution because of stubble burning. The committee included representatives of the Central Pollution Control Board, Punjab Pollution Control Board and scientists named by the Punjab Agriculture University and the Haryana Agriculture University.

The petitioner argued that the notification has been issued without any basis and it completely ignored the depletion of groundwater levels in Punjab. “One of the main reasons for depletion of groundwater in the state of Punjab has been early transplantation of paddy, which makes use of groundwater instead of the monsoon water,” Dhiman said.

“Transplantation of paddy in the early days of June makes the crop dependent on the groundwater as the monsoon is yet to arrive,” he added. “Water requirement of paddy is much higher than that of alternative crops.”

On Monday, the green tribunal took suo motu cognisance of reports on high pollution levels in the national Capital and summoned the Delhi chief secretary and other senior officials from the Union Environment Ministry, the Central Pollution Control Board and the Delhi Pollution Control Committee.

Crop burning is considered one of the main reasons for the rising level of air pollution in the Delhi-NCR region and other northern states at this time of the year. Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday asked the Ministry of Agriculture to distribute equipment to farmers of Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh on a priority basis to tackle stubble burning.

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