Stray incidents of stubble burning on Delhi’s outskirts

Smoke engulfs as stubble is being burnt in Tigipur village on the outskirts of Delhi.   | Photo Credit: Sandeep Saxena

Around 11 a.m. on Thursday last week, Sunil Ram (36) toiled on his rice field, heaping more stubble into burning mounds of crop residue, in the Capital’s Tigipur village. The smoke rising from the field could be seen from the village road, about 50 metre away.

On the right side of the muddy path, which led from the village road to the field, several burnt patches were seen in another field, suggesting similar fires in the recent past.

“Around 10 a.m., I had set small fires at different points. Then water was let into the field from the channel, so that there would not be much smoke,” said Mr. Ram from Bihar, who has been working in the field for the past four months.

The Hindu found workers setting stubble on fire in two more rice fields — in Tigipur and Daryapur — during a visit last week. More than 10 rice fields were found with burnt patches in Tigipur, Jhangola, Jatikra and Shikarpur on the outskirts of Delhi. The burnt patches ranged from one or two in some fields to several in at least four of the 10 fields.

Pollution concerns

The top 14 most-polluted cities in the world are located in India, according to the World Health Organization, and Delhi ranks sixth among them. On Tuesday, two days after Deepavali celebrations, Delhi’s air quality index was recorded at 400, one notch short of ‘severe’ category.

“The smoke from stubble burning can lead to respiratory diseases, worsening of heart diseases, and bronchial asthma,” said Ashwani Mehta, a senior consultant at Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, Delhi. He added that people who already have respiratory diseases are affected more by the smoke.

Sanjeev Khirwar, secretary, Environment Department, said, “In Delhi, stubble burning doesn't happen, according to reports from the Development Department. But if you have specific details, we will inform the district officials and take action against it.”

The stubble middleman

Farmers said that stubble burning was “very less” in Delhi as middlemen were collecting stubble from the fields at a rate between ₹2,000 and ₹3,500 from a ‘killa’ (measurement similar to an acre) of rice field. The stubble was then sold either to dairies or as packing materials in markets.

“We sold the stubble for ₹2,000 a killa, but some of it was still left. So we set it on fire,” said Suman Yadav, 52, as she pushed more stubble into the fire in her rice field close to Daryapur village.

Ms. Yadav, whose mouth and nose were covered with a piece of cloth, said: “We will sow wheat by November 5 and if we don’t remove the leftover stubble, it will get stuck in the machine.”

Other farmers too said that they burn the stubble left on the field after selling the heap of it to middlemen. The farmers also said that the government is not helping them in selling the stubble and they are dependent on middlemen for the process.

Ban on burning

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. Most of the farmers said they were aware of the ban but did not how else to dispose of the leftover stubble.

“The Delhi government should help farmers in disposing of the stubble and also provide Super Straw Management System [Super-SMS] machines, which cut the stubble and spread it while harvesting. If farmers are setting the leftover stubble on fire, then the district administration officials should make sure than there is no stubble left for burning,” said Vivek Chattopadhyaya, a senior programme manager of ‘Clean Air Programme’ at the Centre for Science and Environment, Delhi.

This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor

Printable version | Apr 16, 2021 12:35:08 AM |

Next Story