The Delhi High Court on Friday asked Delhi and neighbouring states to strictly implement the Air Pollution Act that bans the burning of crop residue and paddy straw.
"All the states shall implement the respective notifications and directions issued by them under the Air Pollution Act banning the burning of crop residue and paddy straw strictly, in letter and in spirit," said a division bench of justices Justice Ravindra Bhat and Justice Sunil Gaur.
Crop stubble burning in both rabi and kharif seasons has emerged as a menace in the region, causing environmental problems. It leads to haze and smog over north India, especially Delhi, during winter months.
Four neighbouring states - Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan - are among the contributors in crop stubble burning, which spikes air pollution in Delhi every year during October-November.
"The State Governments are to issue directions/orders to all the companies/plants including biomass plants, cement plants and power generation plants and public undertakings involved in the manufacturing of boards and rough paper, to discharge their corporate social responsibility by collecting the crop residue from the fields of farmers by providing them with money as consideration for lifting the agricultural residue," the court said.
The court directed Delhi and neighbourhood state to file a report on the implementation for preventing burning of agricultural waste every week with effective from October 1.
The court also issued directions to the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change to obtain weekly reports from the special committees established to prevent burning of agricultural waste.
The court has asked the Union Government to monitor the sites where agricultural waste is found to have been burnt through satellite tracking.
The court asked the states to inform the public about the protective measures taken and to safeguard their health from smog.
The court observed that one major component of air pollution in Delhi during October and March each year is the burning of agricultural waste, including plant residue and stubble while harvesting the Kharif and Rabi crops.
The court observed that 14 million tonnes of paddy straw is burnt in Punjab alone while figures regarding particulate matter emissions for Haryana are equally large.
The court has listed the matter for further hearing on October 16.
The court was hearing a public interest litigation initiated by it on the issue of increasing air pollution in Delhi.
The court had earlier expressed serious concern over increasing air pollution "akin to living in a gas chamber" and asked the central and city governments to act strongly to curb pollution.