At a time when stubble burning incidents in Haryana have already crossed last year’s figure by over 1,000 cases for the corresponding period, the state is also witnessing a sharp decline in the air quality of its cities. All Haryana cities except Panchkula have an AQI which is either in the ‘poor’ or the ‘very poor’ category. Some places in the state have AQI which falls in the ‘severe’ category too.
“It might be due to multiple factors like low wind speed, low temperature and emission sources including burning of crop residue,” Haryana State Pollution Control Board Member Secretary S Narayanan told The Indian Express Friday.
Jind, Bahadurgarh, Charkhi Dadri and Dharuhera in Haryana have already entered in ‘severe’ zone in terms of AQI.
If the AQI crosses the mark of 401, then it is called ‘severe” as it affects healthy people and seriously impacts those with existing diseases.
It’s considered ‘very poor’ when it is in the range of 301-400 as it invites respiratory illness on prolonged exposure. Gurgaon, Faridabad, Panipat, Rohtak, Yamunanagar, Kaithal, Hisar, Fatehabad and Ballabhgarh have entered in this category.
With 96 AQI value, Panchkula alone is in ‘satisfactory’ range in Haryana.
Officials said that satellite images have spotted 5,066 active fire locations in Haryana till October 29 this year while this figure was 4,000 during the corresponding period in 2019. According to officials, the active fire locations are outcome of mainly stubble burning. However, the farmer leaders have claimed that less stubble burning incidences have taken place this year in comparison to previous years. Enquiries from multiple sources have revealed the farmers set the crop residue of paddy on fire during late evening hours or late night to avoid action from police or other authorities.
“We think this is harmful for health, but avoid complaining to the authorities because of social reasons,” said a villager.
A farmer from Fatehabad district, Satyawan Numberdar, said, “The fear of action has started making its impact but it will take time for complete resolution of the issue. Some farmers indulge in stubble burning to make their fields ready for next sowing season immediately. It’s easier and cheaper for them. If the government offers financial aid to tackle it or provide more machines to the farmers, then the problem can be solved early.”
However, Bhartiya Kisan Union (BKU) Haryana unit president Gurnam Singh Chaduni claimed the farm fires have declined. “I am confident that the incidences of stubble burning were less this year. But excuses are being made to defame the farmers, so that the rest of the public don’t speak anything even if their farm land is snatched,” he said.
He added: “It is possible that such incidents might have taken place in a short span of period as the farmers had initiated harvesting of the crop late because of delay in procurement of paddy this year.”
Chaduni had toured various parts of the state during past couple of days amid ongoing farmers’ agitation.
The farmer leader says the government’s help to the farmers to process crop residue is not sufficient.
“They have not provided financial help to the farmers at the rate of Rs 100 per quintal production of paddy to manage crop residue as ordered by the Supreme Court. If this help was offered to the farmers, the incidences of stubble burning would have much lower.”
Urging not to blame only farmers for pollution, the farmer leader said, “You see the level of pollution coming from the factories. There are factories which generate smoke equal to the stubble burning in 1,000 acres of land. These factories run round the clock becoming main reason of the pollution while the stubble burning in fields takes place in just 15 minutes. There are figures which suggest that stubble burning causes just 8 per cent of the pollution while other factors are responsible for rest of the pollution.”
Narayanan, on the other hand, said, “The Agriculture Department has supplied a lot of eco-friendly machinery to all vulnerable areas in every district and deputy commissioners have engaged their district level teams to prevent further incidences. We have also engaged ourselves in vigorous campaign against the burning, highlighting its added impact on health during the Covid pandemic, especially when Covid impact is more pronounced in poor quality of air. We hope that we get through the remaining season without much burning incidents.”
The government says photos related to stubble burning are taken from Haryana Space Applications Centre (HARSAC) twice a day.
After a meeting held on October 21, the government had stated that the consistent steps taken by the Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar to manage crop residue and stubble in the past six years have resulted in gradual decline in cases of stubble burning.
“This year about 1.75 lakh tonne of paddy stubble has been purchased by the bio-mass plants while it has been proposed to purchase 8.58 lakh tonne of the stubble during the entire season…. the state government has already made provision to allocate an amount of Rs 152 crore to provide machinery for stubble management at subsidised rates of up to 80 per cent through the Custom Hiring Centres. Besides this, 50 per cent subsidy for such machines will also be provided to every individual farmer. For the same, a provision of Rs 216.21 crore has been made this year,” the government had claimed then.
It was also informed that 24,705 stubble management machines including straw balers, hay-racks, super cutters, cutter binders were made available last year whereas the bills of about 13,000 machines have been uploaded this year. “In addition to this, the number of Custom Hiring Centres will increase from 1,031 to 3,831 after the opening of new Custom Hiring Centres,” the government had said in a statement earlier.
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