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New Delhi: With air pollution rising in northern India, Punjab and Haryana have started penalising farmers who burn harvest residue on fields, officials said.

More than 3,700 farm fires have been reported in the two states. Authorities have imposed environmental compensation of over Rs 20 lakh.

Officials said they were determined to control pollution, particularly because experts say contaminated air can aggravate the spread of Covid 19.

“We are taking tough actions against farmers who are doing stubble burning. This year the arrival of paddy in the market is marginally higher than last year as harvesting started early and hence we are finding more fire incidence than the previous year,” said Krunesh Garg, member secretary, Punjab Pollution Control Board.

To deter farmers, 728 cases have been filed with a total amount of environmental compensation imposed at Rs 19.47 lakh, said Garg. The number of fire incidents reported up to October 13 were 3113 and in 472 cases the compensation is yet to be imposed. Further under section 39 of the Air Act, 10 cases were filed apart from 3 FIR according to government data.

In 2019-20, a penalty of Rs 6 crore was imposed on 23,000 farmers in Punjab.

Similarly, in Haryana the Agriculture Department has imposed a fine of Rs 5.35 lakh till October 13th with the number of active fires at 650 according to the Indian Council of Agriculture Research.

Haryana State Pollution Board, member secretary S Narayanan said harvesting started earlier this year and the pollution was getting worse as wind speeds have decreased. “We are trying to ensure that the pollution levels do not rise ahead of the onset of winters,” said Narayanan.

He said that from October 15th, the use of diesel generator sets will be banned in Delhi NCR region as per the Environment Pollution (prevention and control) Authority. Further, large construction projects including highways and metros will provide undertaking to the state pollution control board that they will adhere to the norms for dust management. Industries too will be ensuring that they use only authorized fuel and adopt pollution control measures, he said.

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