02 August, 2021

Throwing Straws Against The Wind

Crop residue or stubble burning is banned in Punjab and Haryana, but satellite images show a substantial increase in farm fires that add to the air pollution in north India, especially Delhi.

Throwing Straws Against The Wind

By the third week of September, satellite imagery revealed that the season of stubble burning had begun in Punjab and Haryana. But that is not the real story. Officials estimate that the 1,300 cases of crop residue burning in the first 15  days of rice harvesting is almost six times than the previous year (226 cases). Haryana witnessed 450 cases of stubble burning, three times more than the previous year.

The high rate of stubble burning, despite a ban, comes in the backdrop of farmers’ protests against three new Central farm laws. Farmers continue to defy the ban as there is a short window between harvesting of paddy and sowing of wheat. This is a result of the Punjab Preservation of Sub Soil Water Act, 2009, which mandated farmers to sow their fields in June instead of April. The aim was to ensure that the first monsoon rains would adequately recharge groundwater reservoirs when rice needed it the most. This delayed the time of rice harvest, leaving a very short period of time to clear fields for sowing wheat. For small and marginal farmers, fire is the...

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