Saturday, December 2, 2023

Air Emergency: Cabinet Secretary discusses funds, MSP with states

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The Union Cabinet Secretary called an urgent meeting on Wednesday with stakeholder ministries and state governments to discuss the steps needed for implementation of the directions issued by the Supreme Court this week on the air emergency in Delhi-NCR.ET gathers that the Cabinet Secretary held a full-scale review of the air pollution scenario in Delhi-NCR and called for strong action on all fronts outlined by the SC order. The meeting is learnt to have held detailed deliberations on each of the directions issued for the Central ministries and departments and state governments and the need for early implementation.

Recognising the predominance of paddy cultivation in Punjab and Haryana leading to burning of huge amounts of paddy straw every year, the Centre will closely be looking at exploring a Minimum Support Price for crops other than paddy. States have also been asked to examine ways to phase out paddy cultivation and start the switch to alternative crops from next year.

The Centre also discussed ways to promote maize cultivation by incentivising ethanol production for paddy cultivation replacement.

On stubble management, the Cabinet Secretary held discussions on the issue of joint funding models. The apex court has suggested that while the Centre should fund 50% of the cost of paddy stubble management, the government of Punjab — the state which generates maximum paddy straw — is expected to pitch in 25% funding and the remaining 25% by the Delhi government.

Greater use of PUSA bio decomposer was also discussed with the agriculture ministry. Senior officials from the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change, Ministry of Power, Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare and Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs were at the meeting besides chief secretaries and senior officials of Delhi, Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan.Data shared at the meet showed that the AQI has stayed in the ‘severe’ category in Delhi-NCR since November 3 and was also higher than in 2022, even as the number of stubble fires reported were 36% lesser than last year.Farm fire data from September 15 to November 7 shows 42,550 fire counts reported from Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh NCR districts in 2021, 35,146 in 2022 and 22,644 in 2023.

While Punjab reported 32,486 fire counts in 2022, the number is at 20,978 this year — a 35% reduction. Uttar Pradesh NCR districts have, on the other hand, shown an increase of 49% vis a vis 2022, with fire counts rising from 37 in the former to 49 this year.

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