A farmer's dilemma: Can stubble be more than just waste? -Ritam Halder and Joydeep Thakur
With no viable alternative, thousands of farmers set their fields on fire despite being aware of the consequences of the act on the air they breathe. A look at the possible solutions.
As the thick white smoke, billowing from a corner of the field filled the air, a 63-year-old farmer was busy moving some of the still-burning hay with a shovel. He was spreading it to another corner to allow the flames to spread.
“We have no option but to set our farmlands on fire. We know that it triggers heavy pollution, but the stubble needs to be removed before we prepare the farm for the winter crop,” said Balwant Singh (name withheld on request).
The practice of burning agricultural residue had been banned by the National Green Tribunal two years ago. But it is largely still prevalent across major farming states like Punjab and Haryana.
Before the pollution from these burnt farms reaches Delhi, the farmers say it takes a heavy toll on them and their families. But with little option and despite being aware of the consequences, thousands of villagers across Haryana and Punjab set their farmlands on fire soon after the monsoon retreats.
While the governments in both states have been trying to find a solution to put an end to the practice, Hindustan Times visited some villages, speaking to farmers, government officials and experts in an attempt to find a possible solution.
Solutions from farmers
For the villagers of both Haryana and Punjab, stubble burning has turned out to be a Hobson’s choice. With cost concerns, the short gap between summer and winter crops, lack of incentives from the government and shortage of equipment to manually cut down the stubble, most farmers take to residue burning.
But amid the dark patches, a ray of hope is slowly emerging. Hindustan Times found some farmers who said they have refrained from the practice.
Resham Singh, a 50-year-old farmer from Kamalpur village in Patiala district, has cut the stubble of his one-acre plot and lined it up on the side.
“We won’t burn it this year. Instead, we will put water on it and let it decompose and become khaad (manure). Due to government pressure, most farmers this time will not go for the quick-fix solution,” he said.
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