Inputs from Samita Kaur, Warrior Moms, Punjab & 'We Support Our Farmers'
Chief Minister of Punjab- Shri Bhagwant Mann and Punjab Pollution Control Board
Chief Minister of Haryana- Shri Manohar Lal and Haryana State Pollution Control Board
Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh- Shri Shivraj Singh Chouhan and Madhya Pradesh Pollution Control Board
Chief Minister of Rajasthan-Shri Ashok Gehlot and Rajasthan State Pollution Control Board
Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh- Shri Yogi Adityanath and Uttar Pradesh Pollution Control Board
Year after year, with the onset of the winter season, North India struggles with apocalyptic levels of air pollution. And this year is no different. A number of factors contribute to the smog that envelops this region come October, such as transport emissions, construction activity and dust, vehicular traffic, and waste and industrial sources in addition to stubble burning, which is episodic in nature. We must keep in mind certain atmospheric conditions that drive dipping air quality levels during the winter months, including drop in temperature and changes in wind direction.
While Delhi, dubbed as the world’s most polluted city, might see a spike in air pollution in the winter months, the air is bad for most part of the year, signaling a need for long-term, practical and comprehensive measures, an article in The Hindu states.
At this time of the year, hospitals witness a rise in patients with respiratory trouble, from cases of asthma, breathness and cough to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Indians are losing 5 years of life to air pollution, studies have shown. It’s time to demand sustainable solutions to the air pollution problem, from decision makers.
Among the other issues that contribute to pollutants in the air, stubble burning in the states of Rajasthan, Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, and Madhya Pradesh has been an ongoing concern. According to Consortium for Research on Agroecosystem Monitoring and Modelling from Space (Creams), the rise in stubble burning incidents this year could be attributed to an early harvest and the retreat of the southwest monsoon from the northern region.
Stubble burning is the practice, where farmers burn crop residue after harvest, to prepare the field for the next crop, in the absence of better alternatives. This releases a large amount of smoke and particulate matter into the air, such as carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide. Exposure to these pollutants is a serious threat to the lives of those involved in the practice, including the farmers and people living in close proximity to the fields where stubble is burnt. The impact of these fires, when they’re at their peak, does penetrate to a certain extent to other areas as well, depending on the wind speed and direction.
According to the Punjab Preservation of Subsoil Water Act (2009), it became mandatory for farmers to delay the transplantation of paddy during the Kharif season to conserve water, resulting in a narrow window of time for farmers to harvest the rice crop and prepare the field for the upcoming winter crop. (Sources*12)
Data by Indian Agricultural Research institute reveals that cases of stubble burning have risen by 30% between September 15th to October 4th, WION reported.
This year, there appears to be an increase in incidents of stubble burning, with Punjab reporting the highest number of incidents of stubble burning, touching 1027 cases as of October 9, 2023 and Amritsar leading the tally, reports in the media have suggested. Madhya Pradesh has reported increasing incidents of stubble burning over the last few years, according to reports. Between September 15 and October 8, 2023, Uttar Pradesh reported atleast 137 cases of stubble burning. Farmers in the areas allege that they have no other option, and the alternatives provided to them by the government are not feasible. Farmers in other areas like Ambala have expressed their disdain, with the lack of affordable solutions for crop residue management from the government’s side.
According to a report in The Tribune, farmers in Punjab are insistent on a Rs 2,500 per acre compensation, but the government has not agreed to these demands.
Stubble burning occurs in North and Central Indian states, as farmers prepare to sow the next crop, with very few days in the middle to prepare the field. We appeal to the Governments of these states to provide sustainable solutions.
Provide feasible and tangible incentives to farmers to tackle burning stubble. This could be done with greater grassroot involvement, including gram panchayats. The panchayats should be answerable for Crop Residue Management. There must be proactive involvement of the Sub Divisional Magistrate and the Block Development Officials. The procurement/purchase of the machinery and its upkeep must fall on the government.
Focus on encouraging ecological farming practices among farmers that promote crop diversification, rather than the monoculture pattern currently dominant. This includes subsidies, enough access to funding, investment and tools for the same.
More infrastructure for waste management to farmers
Effective utilization and timely access of the crop residue management (CRM) machineries and access to crushing machines for farmers. Each Panchayat should be provided with machinery like the Happy Seeder and the Super Seeder. These can then be used by the farmers as a collective.
We must demand sustainable solutions to stubble burning, keeping in mind the lack of cheaper, effective alternatives. Sign the petition, appealing authorities of the different states to take cognizance of stubble burning and initiate an action plan to tackle the issue.