Delhi

As smoke billows from city fields, govt. misses the fire

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Farmers ‘forced to burn stubble’ in absence of help from authorities

Stubble burning, which can lead to heart attacks and respiratory diseases, is practised in many areas of Delhi. Farmers said they were forced to burn the leftover stalk of harvested crops as there was no help from the government to get rid of the same. The Hindu found at least eight fields, which were set on fire after harvesting, in three villages in the city — Palla, Mundela Khurd, and Surhera. The fields that were mainly of wheat crop were harvested in April.

Delhi Rural Development Minister Gopal Rai said there is no policy to control stubble burning in the city as it is not practised on a large scale.

“No widespread stubble burning happens in Delhi and there are no complaints about the same,” Mr. Rai told The Hindu. When informed about Palla, Mundela Khurd and Surhera, the Minister promised that he would “ask officials to look into the issue”.

‘Annual affair’

Open burning of waste is banned in Delhi by an order of the National Green Tribunal with a fine ranging from ₹5,000 to ₹25,000.

On a June morning in Palla, a village in north Delhi, bordering Haryana, Harsh Chand, 53, and three others were reaping lobiya (black-eyed peas) next to a wheat field when it was set on fire.

“Around 8 a.m., they set the field on fire. There was a lot of smoke but the wind was blowing in the other direction and that helped us,” said Mr. Chand. “Some set their fields on fire after harvesting the crops, some don’t, but we see it every year,” chimed in his wife Urmila, 50. The couple from Uttar Pradesh has been living in the village for around eight years.

Two other burnt fields were seen in the same village: one between shanks number four and five of the Yamuna and the other close to its banks.

“The field was set on fire about two to three days ago in the evening. It was completely burnt within 10 minutes,” a man working next to the burnt field between the shanks said.

In Mundela Khurd, four wheat fields were found to be set on fire after the harvest. Standing next to a charred field, Balaram Singh, 37, said it was set on fire in the second half of May.

“The government should provide us with a 'Happy Seeder' or give us subsidy for buying the machine,” said Mr. Singh.

A ‘Happy Seeder’ is a tractor-mounted device which can cut and lift the previous crop and sow a new crop in its place.

He added that his wheat crop was cut by hand, leaving very little stubble, after which the field was ploughed and he did not set it on fire.

Watch | Farmers continue to burn stubble despite ban

Health issues

“Stubble burning can lead to heart attacks, worsen bronchial asthma and other respiratory diseases. It leads to increased particulate matter in the air, mainly PM 2.5, whose impact can be felt over a large area,” said Ashwani Mehta, a senior consultant at Ganga Ram Hospital, Delhi.

In can be avoided if the government takes some initiatives, said experts.

“Incentives should be given to the farmers to not burn the stubble and use it for other purposes such as fodder and composting,” said Vivek Chattopadhyaya, senior programme manager of ‘Clean Air Programme’ at the Centre for Science and Environment, Delhi.

Yudhvir Singh, the general secretary of Bharatiya Kisan Union, had a similar opinion, but he said there is “very less” stubble burning in Delhi.

“The government should buy it (stubble) from the farmers and use it to make organic fertiliser, packing material or as fodder in cattle centres they are running, else, the government should provide machines on a rental basis to the farmers,” he said.

Using ‘Happy Seeders’ is another option as farmers can avoid getting rid of the stubble before sowing the new crop.

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Printable version | Jan 27, 2020 5:37:11 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Delhi/as-smoke-billows-from-city-fields-govt-misses-the-fire/article27952499.ece

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