From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : Zonal Councils
Mains level : Paper 3- Inter-State collaboration for dealing with pollution crisis
With the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) governing both Delhi and Punjab, collaboration for clean air should be the mantra for both State governments.
Impact of air pollution on Delhi and Punjab
- Punjab is home to nine of the 132 most polluted cities in the country identified by the Central Pollution Control Board.
- In 2019, Delhi and Punjab together faced economic losses estimated to be approximately ₹18,000 crore due to worsening air pollution.
- Therefore, by collaborating for clean air, both States can ensure improvements in citizen well-being and labour productivity.
How can the two States collaborate?
1] Arrive at a common understanding of sources
- Those in charge of the two States must talk.
- Setting aside their disagreements on the contribution of stubble burning to Delhi’s air pollution, the States should arrive at a common understanding of sources polluting the region.
2] Create platforms for knowledge exchange
- Cross-learning on possible solutions: A common knowledge centre should be set up to facilitate cross-learning on possible solutions to developmental challenges in both States.
- Such a centre would especially benefit Punjab given the host of measures that the Delhi government has already taken to improve air quality in Delhi.
- Information on air quality levels and source assessment studies are critical in developing long-term strategies for pollution mitigation.
3] Collaborate to execute proven solutions
- Co-design solutions: The two States could co-design solutions that would improve air quality.
- Institutionalise a task force: They could jointly institutionalise a task force comprising experts from State-run institutions to pilot these solutions and assess their impact.
- This would ensure wider acceptance of the proposed solution, which has not been the case in the past.
- For instance, the PUSA bio-decomposer (developed by the Indian Agricultural Research Institute), has received mixed reviews from farmers.
- The decomposer only makes sense for early maturing varieties of paddy, as even with the decomposer, stubble would take between 25 to 30 days to decompose.
- Therefore, it is of little use in high burn districts such as Sangrur, Punjab, where late-maturing paddy varieties are dominant.
4] Create a market for diversified crop products
- Moving away from paddy-wheat cycle: Shifting away from the ‘paddy-wheat cycle’ through crop diversification is a sure shot solution to stubble burning.
- But, the lack of an assured market for agricultural products, other than wheat and paddy, has acted as a deterrent.
- For years now, the Delhi government has toyed with the idea of introducing ‘Aam Aadmi kitchens’ in Delhi.
- These community kitchens could potentially incorporate crops other than wheat and paddy in meals offered.
5] Extending inter-State cooperation to other States in Indo-Gangetic plains
- Both State governments should assert the need for extending inter-State cooperation to other States in the Indo-Gangetic plains in different inter-State forums.
- One such forum is the Northern Zonal Council which has representation from Chandigarh, Delhi, Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh.
- Both Delhi and Punjab must use this platform to highlight the need for coordination with neighbouring States to alleviate the pollution crisis.
With a collaborative plan of action, we can be optimistic about cleaner air in the years to come.