The burning of paddy straw continues unabated in both Punjab and Haryana with authorities in both the states unable to check the menace. With the harvesting season at the fag end, the farmers are now clearing their fields by burning the paddy straw causing air pollution.
It is said the pollution from burning paddy straw is a factor in Delhi’s poor air quality.
There is no specific law in Punjab to ban stubble burning. Every Deputy Commissioner (DC) has the power to impose a ban under section 144 of Criminal Procedure Act. It’s a common practice in Punjab that every DC issues order pertaining to this under CrPC 144 just before paddy harvesting and wheat harvesting season in Punjab asking farmers to abstain from it but still farmers continue to do so.
DC also has the power under 188 IPC to punish the violators creating nuisance but hardly any punishment is given under it in the state. Under the law, a violator may be punished upto six months jail and a fine of Rs. 1000. Hardly any action is taken under this law against violators in Punjab. There’s a lack of ‘political will’ resulting in poor implementation in the state.
Several types of mechanisms are available now which can cut the paddy straws into small pieces of one inch each which ultimately can be converted into manure but farmers do favour this — not even two per cent of the total area (27 lakh hectares) under paddy and basmati rice in state sees the practice.
Meanwhile in Haryana, the environment department had banned the burning of agriculture waste in the open fields under the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act 1981. Till date, prosecution action has been filed against 32 farmers in the special environment courts in Kurukshetra and Faridabad by the Haryana Pollution Control Board for burning paddy in the open fields. As per an official of the board, two farmers were recently convicted by the courts.
It is the legal wrangles that pose a problem in the implementation of the rules. An official said that every case has to be sent to the environment court after the board sanctions approval. This is a lengthy procedure and proves to be a deterrent in preventing the farmers from burning paddy straw.
Experts say that implementation is not possible due to the lack of machinery. Between paddy harvesting and growing of a new crop, farmers get only 15-20 days and for that a large number of straw chopping machines are required at low price so that farmers can go for chopping straw instead of burning the same.
Punjab Pollution Control Board Member Secretary Babu Ram said that burning straw led to increase in particulate matter (PM) in the air. He said that there is a very small mixture which may include acids like sulfates, nitrates, metals. Also oil dust particles cause health problems like nose, throat, lungs, heart problems. PPCB official said that the PM level is several times higher than the permissible limits in Punjab during paddy harvesting season.
Rajesh Kumar Garhia, Environmental Scientist at Haryana Pollution Control Board says that Haryana Space Application Centre (HARSAC) has been asked to conduct a study on the pollution caused in Haryana due to paddy straw burning and the extent of the problem. He said that all deputy commissioners have been asked to keep a check on burning of paddy straw. Awareness is being created among the farmers.