THE HARYANA government’s claims of having taken measures to check stubble burning are going up in smoke, with the problem continuing unchecked. Since the first week of October, vast tracts of land have been set on fire by farmers in Karnal, Kurukshetra, Yamunanagar, Ambala, Kaithal and Panipat who claim they have no option but to burn the stubble to prepare their fields for the next harvest.
While images by NASA suggest that stubble burning is choking the capital, farmers dismissed the suggestion. “Delhi is suffering because of Diwali crackers. Stubble burning does not cause pollution; it takes just a few minutes for it to burn. Government should check the number of vehicles, not bother farmers,” said Ramesh Rattan, a landlord in Haryana.
Several farmers claimed they have no option but to burn the stubble. “The stubble does not decompose on its own. We cannot remove it using tractors, and doing it manually is very expensive,” said a farmer.
Ram Kumar, another farmer, said, “I did not set fire to my fields after harvesting paddy and the stubble is still standing. The government should offer some alternative — either help remove the stubble or compensate us.”
In a nearby village, another farmer said everyone sets their fields on fire despite knowing the ill-effects. “When stubble burning is at its peak, a lot of villagers complain of cough and breathlessness. But people still do it,” he said.
Data for ambient air quality, monitored by the Haryana State Pollution Control Board, showed that in October, the average levels of particulate matter (PM) 2.5 in Faridabad was 155 µg/m3. The permissible level is 100. The maximum level was recorded on October 31 at 303 µg/m3 .
The levels are even worse in Gurgaon, where levels of PM 2.5 were recorded at 270.89 µg/m3. The maximum it rose to was 785.
Secretary, Haryana State Pollution Control Board, S Narayanan said cases of stubble burning have reduced considerably. “Less than 30 cases were identified on November 3. So far, as many as 1,400 cases have been identified and Rs 13 lakh compensation collected from farmers,” he said.