More than 50 per cent of individual farmers in Haryana have been supplied machinery for in-situ crop residue management, while machines such as ‘Happy Seeder’ have been distributed to 836 of the state’s 900 custom hiring centres (CHC), C K Mishra, Secretary in the Ministry of Environment and Forests, told The Indian Express.
Ministry officials said that concerted efforts have been made before the “crop burning season”, which loosely runs from late September to early November. This is when farmers — mainly from Punjab and Haryana — set their paddy fields on fire as a low-cost straw-disposal practice. While this reduces the turnaround time between harvesting paddy and sowing the next wheat crop, the resultant smoke contributes hugely to Delhi’s poor air quality in winter months.
In Punjab, distribution of machinery is yet to pick up, owing mostly to the state being the highest producer of farm machinery that will be used to manage crop residue this winter.
“Since the distribution had to take place across both states, Haryana received the equipment first. Punjab will receive it in the second round,” Mishra said. “The critical factor this year has been information campaigns, explaining to farmers the ill-effects of crop burning and helping them understand why they should switch to alternative methods,” he said.
According to the MoEF, only 1,500 individual farmers among 14,000 in Punjab have received machines to help manage stubble. Only 2,000 of the 10,000 CHCs have received equipment. The state government has set a target of October 10 to cover all farmers.
While chief ministers of Punjab and Haryana have put out video appeals to farmers, the message on the ground has also been to alert farmers that the state will come down heavily on them if any burning takes place this year.
Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) has also carried out a study to demonstrate to farmers the benefits of mixing residue into the soil. The operational guidelines drawn up by the Ministry of Agriculture to implement the Rs 1,100 crore-central sector scheme point out that on an estimate, “23 million tonnes of paddy straw is burnt in Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh. The stubble burning shoots up the carbon dioxide levels in the air by 70%. The concentration of carbon monoxide and nitrogen dioxide also rises by 7% and 2.1% respectively, triggering respiratory and heart problems.”
It states that by incorporating “1 million tonnes of crop residues into soil, it is estimated that about 0.13 million tonnes of carbon (C) may be improved per year and save about 4.7×103 tonne of N (equivalent to Rs. 6.71 crores) annually”.
In an inter-ministerial meeting held earlier this month to take stock of preparations for the upcoming season, it was decided that subdivisional magistrates will be held responsible if any burning takes place at the district level.
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