New Delhi: As days near for stubble burning ahead of the Rabi crop sowing season, Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh on Wednesday reiterated his demand for fiscal aid by the Centre to farmers for defraying the cost on management of paddy straw. Also Read - Battle Lines Drawn: Amarinder Moves Resolution in Punjab Assembly Against Centre's Farm Laws

“Though state govt is launching an aggressive media campaign to educate farmers and people in general, giving the linkage with Covid, it was imperative for Govt of India to step in with Rs 100/quintal compensation state has been seeking for farmers to manage paddy straw,” read a statement issued by the Punjab CMO. Also Read - Punjab: AAP MLAs Spend Night in Assembly Premises Over Agriculture Law

Notably, experts have suggested a possible aggravation of the coronavirus condition with stubble burning. Also Read - Air Quality Remains in 'Poor' Category in NCR Cities

The chief minister urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi during the PM-CM review meeting earlier today and asked him to ensure adequate supplies of medical oxygen from other states amid apprehension of its shortage with rising coronavirus cases.

Singh asked PM to direct the Chief Controller of Explosives, Nagpur, to clear the licence request for establishment of a liquid medical oxygen plant at Government Medical College, Patiala, under the PM Swasthya Surkhsha Yojna, the statement said.

Noting that government and private hospitals in Punjab could end up facing a shortage of medical Oxygen supply due to the late surge of cases, the CM told the PM that with no manufacturer of medical oxygen, the state was dependent largely on three big manufacturers for liquid oxygen.

These are at Baddi (Himachal Pradesh), Dehradun (Uttarakhand) and Panipat (Haryana), but the Dehradun and Panipat plants are not supplying oxygen as per the state’s demand, he said, urging to ensure the supply of medical oxygen from the states.

The Panipat plant can supply more oxygen if the supply to Panipat Refinery is curtailed. His government, on its part, was in talks with industry to convert industrial oxygen to medical oxygen, he said.

Earlier today, an agricultural-cum-environment expert cautioned that if alternate arrangements are not made for treatment, pollutants like particulate matters and toxic gases like Carbon Monoxide and Methane could give rise to severe respiratory problems, which might in turn worsen the COVID-19 situation in the northern states of Punjab, Haryana, Delhi and Uttar Pradesh.

Last year’s stubble burning in Punjab and Haryana had contributed to 44 percent of the pollution in NCR Delhi, according to the System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting and Research (SAFAR), the Ministry of Earth Science.

“Last year, nearly 50,000 cases of stubble burning were reported in Punjab. Stubble burning contributes about 18 to 40 per cent of particulate matter to atmosphere in northern plains. It also emits large amounts of toxic pollutants like Methane, Carbon Monoxide and carcinogenic polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons,” said Sanjeev Nagpal, who is an advisor to the Union and the Punjab governments on the crop residue management.

Nagpal said stubble burning causes not only massive air pollution but also affects the soil health, which is already in a bad shape in Punjab. The practice of stubble burning combined with excessive use of pesticides and chemical fertilizers over the years has resulted in the decrease of soluble silica, carbon and other essential nutrients in the soil.

Meanwhile, a Supreme Court-mandated pollution control authority has written to Punjab and Haryana and asked them to “urgently” implement measures to reduce stubble burning, which causes extreme levels of air pollution in Delhi NCR every year.

(With PTI inputs)