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THE HARYANA government’s claims of having taken steps to check stubble burning are going up in smoke with the menace continuing unchecked. At some places, farmers continue to set their fields on fire, while at other places, the harvested land is black with ash. Stubble burning began in the first week of October in Karnal, Kurukshetra, Yamunanagar, Ambala, Kaithal and Panipat districts where paddy is harvested early. In the villages of these districts, vast tracts were set on fire by farmers claiming they had to burn the stubble to make their fields ready for the next crop.
With Delhi facing its worst smog post Diwali in years, NASA images suggest that one of the reasons could be stubble burning. Farmers, however, scoffed at the allegations. “Delhi is not suffering due to stubble burning. It is the crackers that were burnt during Diwali that have caused this problem. Stubble burning does not cause pollution. It takes just a few minutes for it to burn. The government goes after farmers and landlords after every harvest. They do not check the increasing number of vehicles or the industries that cause pollution. The smoke due to stubble burning does not even affect one village, leave alone reach Delhi,” said Ramesh Rattan, a landlord.
The farmers say that to get their fields ready for the next crop, they have to burn the stubble as it does not decompose on its own. Also, they cannot remove the stubble with tractors and removing it manually is unviable.
A farmer, Ram Kumar, who owns 10 acres at Kharindwa village in Kurukshetra, grows paddy over 4 acres and sugarcane on the rest. Talking about the farmers’ problems, he says, “I did not set fire to my field after harvesting paddy and the stubble is still standing. The government should offer some alternatives to farmers. They should either remove the stubble or compensate us.”
He adds, “The cost of inputs in agriculture is growing. We know that if we harvest paddy manually, it would cost less. However, labour is unavailable. If we find labour, the cost is high. It is more affordable and time saving to harvest fields using combines. But this leaves the paddy with more moisture content and the stubble unusable.”
Haryana State Pollution Control Board Secretary S Narayanan said stubble burning has reduced considerably according to Haryana Space Application Centre that was roped in to study the phenomenon roblem and provide daily reports. “Only less than 30 cases were identified yesterday. So far, around 1400 cases have been identified and Rs 13 lakh compensation collected,” he said.
The data for ambient air quality monitored by HSPCB shows that in October, the average PM 2.5 recorded in Faridabad was 155 micrograms per cubic metre. The permissible level is 100 micrograms per cubic metre. The maximum recorded was 303 on October 31.
In Gurgaon, it is the worst. The average PM 2.5 recorded is 270.89 micrograms per cubic metre. The maximum it rose to was 785. In Panchkula, the average PM 2.5 recorded in October was 132 micrograms per cubic metre. In Rohtak, the PM 2.5 remained below 100 on most days. On October 31, it was 113.