LUCKNOW, India -- Twenty-two farmers were arrested in northern India on Wednesday for setting fires to clear their fields and contributing to some of the worst air pollution in the country, a government official said.
Those arrested in Uttar Pradesh state’s Pilibhit district face charges of disobeying a ban on burning crop waste and making the atmosphere noxious, said state government spokesman Awanish Awasthi.
India’s Supreme court last week ordered a fine of up to 100,000 rupees ($1,420) for those polluting the air.
Air pollution in northern India peaks in the winter due to smoke from agricultural fires. The smoke mixes with vehicle emissions and construction dust.
The air quality index in New Delhi exceeded 500, about 10 times the recommended maximum, early this month, but strong winds bought the level down to 250 this week.
On Tuesday, several opposition lawmakers in India’s Parliament demanded that that the government give incentives to farmers and provide machines to remove crop waste to stop the practice of burning fields before planting new crops.
Opposition lawmakers also demanded that coal-based power plants switch over to less polluting natural gas.
Pollution controls have been imposed in the Indian capital region, home to 48 million people, such as banning some construction to avoid dust, reducing traffic and prohibiting the use of diesel generators. But experts say the steps have had little effect because state governments have failed to cooperate in tackling pollution.
Data released last year by the World Health Organization showed India had 10 of the world’s 20 most polluted cities.