Chandigarh: Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh, in a bizarre statement, said if stubble burning was responsible for Delhi’s pollution then Chandigarh’s air should have been as polluted. The development comes at a time when the national capital is fighting against ‘very poor’ air quality since many days.

“We have westerly winds most of the year and if stubble burning was responsible for Delhi’s pollution then Chandigarh’s air should have been as polluted,” he reportedly said on Friday. Notably, stubble burning in neighbouring Punjab and Haryana is one of the major causes for poor air quality in Delhi.

Earlier, the Chief Minister had expressed his inability to put a stop to stubble burning without proper compensation to the farmers for the same. Speaking to India Today, he had reportedly said that the ‘farmers cannot afford to buy machines or fuel to uproot the paddy straws from the fields’.

On Friday, Delhi’s air quality deteriorated and oscillated between ‘poor’ and ‘very poor’ categories after a brief respite. Meanwhile, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) directed the Agriculture Ministry and Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Delhi to periodically review steps taken to stop stubble burning incidents.

Government body SAFAR said fire counts from stubble burning increased in past 24 hours which might contribute 8-10 per cent to the pollution in Delhi. “The pollution level is likely to deteriorate further by Saturday but will remain in very poor category. Although wind speed is better (higher) but holding capacity is also high due to moisture which is unfavourable,” the SAFAR said in a report.

The Supreme Court-appointed EPCA chairperson Bhure Lal said more cases of stubble burning in the neighbouring states were recorded this time as compared to last year despite a strict enforcement of the ban. He stressed on the need to bring a change in the mentality of people so that they look at the alternatives to this practice.

Delhi’s air quality showed significant improvement in recent days after rain washed away the pollutants.

The EPCA chairman, in a letter to the CPCB recently, had recommended implementation of either the odd-even scheme or a complete ban on non-CNG private vehicles if the air pollution level in Delhi increased again.

The NGT directed the Agriculture Ministry and the chief secretaries of Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Delhi to periodically review steps taken to stop crop burning incidents.

A bench headed by NGT Chairperson Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel said there was a need to adopt a multi-method approach through in situ and ex situ management of crop residue to minimise stubble burning incidents.

The green panel directed the states to compile data on instances of stubble burning “appropriately through revenue records” and asked the Centre to “disburse funds well in time” so that they can be utilised by the states.

It directed the Agriculture Ministry to furnish a status report to this tribunal on or before April 30, 2019 and said it would consider it on May 9.

(With inputs from PTI)