Poisonous air: This year the most stagnant burn in Punjab, is the farmers angry about the agriculture bill behind it

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new Delhi21 hours agoAuthor: Poonam Kaushal

The CPCB, in an order issued on 11 November, asked the Haryana and Punjab governments to stop burning the stubble. – File photo

  • Between 22 September and 17 November, 74236 cases of stubble burning were recorded in Punjab, the highest since 2016.
  • Agriculture expert Devendra Sharma says that 200 million tonnes of straw is released every year in Punjab, it is not easy to manage

These days, soon after getting out of the house in Delhi, your eyes will start burning and your head will be a bit heavy. Many people even have trouble breathing. This year, the wind in Delhi was fine till October 10, but since then the quality of the air has deteriorated and reached the worst level the next day of Diwali. Every year, from October to November, the air of Delhi becomes stifling and sick people start having trouble breathing. A major reason for this is the stubble burning in the neighboring states of Haryana, Punjab and Uttar Pradesh.

At this time, farmers are in a hurry to sow wheat after harvesting paddy crop from the field and set the paddy stove on fire to clean the field. The rain showers on Sunday evening and the changed attitude towards the wind cleared some of Delhi’s air and reached AQI Moderate Level. Tuesday was a good day for Delhi in terms of pollution. The Air Quality Index reached 130, while the daytime average stood at 170.

No policy of the government, but the weather, is responsible for this better change in the air of Delhi. According to experts, Delhi’s air will start to deteriorate again in the next one or two days. The Department of System of Air Quality and Weather for Casting and Research (SAFAR) monitors the air quality in the metros of the country. According to Safar, the air will get worse in the coming days.

Fire monitoring agencies use satellite imagery to collect data. According to Safar’s data, over 4200 cases of stubble burning were reported on 6 November, but on 17 November the figure was less than ten. Meteorological Department scientist VK Soni says that it is possible that the clouds have stopped the vision of the satellite.

In the Kharif season, about 50 thousand fire incidents were recorded in Punjab in 2018 and about 52 thousand incidents in 2019.

According to Safar’s data, 14% of PM 2.5 on Friday was due to burning of stove, while on Saturday it increased to 32%. The PM2.5 pollution caused by stubble burning in Delhi’s air on Tuesday was just 3% ie non-existent. PM2.5 particles dissolved in air are very fine and can cause serious damage to lungs.

Steps taken to stop pollution
In an order issued on 9 November, the Air Quality Commission, set up to monitor pollution in Delhi-NCR, asked for 10 steps to be taken immediately. These include minimizing the use of personal vehicles, not traveling when not in urgent need, promoting work from home, strict adherence to restrictions imposed to control dust, strict burning of biomass and solid waste Restrictions are included.

The commission also gave guidelines to strictly enforce the National Green Tribunal’s restrictions on spraying water in dust-hit areas, using anti-smog guns in high-pollution areas, fireworks and stubble burning.

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The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), in an order issued on 11 November, asked the governments of Haryana and Punjab to stop the burning of garbage in Parali and Delhi. CPCB provides AQI information through its Sameer mobile app. On this app, people can also complain of violation of directions and rules related to pollution. However, when we checked this app in many areas of Delhi, no complaint was received.

Pollution of vehicles
On the way to Noida area where I live, at least five police barricades are found on the way, where the mask is checked. Due to the barricade, the vehicle stops at many places and becomes jammed. During this time, smoke keeps coming out of the vehicles.

A car rider stopped at the barricade, saying, ‘Unnecessary pollution is not going unnoticed. The focus of the administration is on the collection of fines, not on the resolution of the problem. Travel-related scientists say, ‘Stubble burning is one of the reasons of pollution in NCR, but it is not the only reason. Smoke emanating from vehicles is also a big reason for dissolving toxic elements in the air.

This year Punjab has the most stubble burn

According to Safar's data, over 4200 cases of stubble burning were reported on 6 November.

According to Safar’s data, over 4200 cases of stubble burning were reported on 6 November.

According to the Punjab Remote Sensing Center, between 22 September and 17 November this year, 74,236 cases of stubble burning were recorded in Punjab alone. This is the highest since 2016. In 2016, 80,879 fire incidents were recorded in Punjab during the Kharif season. The figure was 43,660 in 2017, 49,905 in 2018 and 51,946 in 2019.

Agriculture expert Devendra Sharma sees the anger of the farmers behind the increase in burning of straw. Sharma says, “There is anger among the farmers of Punjab about the policies of the government. This too can be a reason for stubble burning more. At the same time, Harinder Singh Lakhowal, leader of the Indian Farmers Union, says that the anger created by the farmers about agricultural bills is the biggest reason for burning more stubble.

Devendra Sharma says, ‘The reason for pollution is not just stubble, but many more reasons. Farmers know that the farmer family is the first to suffer the loss of stubble. The farmer knows, but burning stubble is his compulsion, because he has to clear the field for sowing wheat as soon as possible. The Punjab government has sold machines to farmers to prevent stubble burning. So far 74 thousand machines have been sold, but this is not the solution.

Sharma says, ‘Farmers demand financial help. Last year, the Supreme Court ordered farmers to give incentives at the rate of Rs 100 a quintal. But, the governments did not implement it either. Every year 200 lakh tons of straw is released in Punjab. It will be very difficult for any government or private company to manage it.

Devendra Sharma says, “The government will have to invest in human capital, but the government’s emphasis is on investing in machines.” If the government had promised to give an incentive of 100 rupees quintal to the farmers in July-August, the farmers would have made some arrangements by September. Those who make policies have to understand that they are also at fault. Until effective policies are formed, this problem will continue to grow.

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