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Air Pollution

Indian Farmers Carry On Burning Stubble Despite Cost To Health

Residents in Delhi and surrounding areas in Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Punjab states experienced some of the filthiest air in the world in the last week, data from the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) showed

Indian Farmers Carry On Burning Stubble Despite Cost To Health
Delhi has closed primary schools and restricted road traffic, while international cricketers in the city skipped practice ahead of a World Cup match on Monday.

Samalkha: Small farmer Aashish Sharma has been burning crop stubble in recent days even though he is aware of its impact on air quality nearby and in New Delhi, the world’s most polluted capital located about three hours away by road. The air quality in Mr Sharma’s village in Haryana state is so bad his asthmatic uncle struggles to breathe, meaning he needs a nebuliser to pump medicine directly into his lungs. Mr Sharma, 22, in his village in Karnal, known for its rice and wheat cultivation, said,

We know stubble-burning is harmful, particularly for the health of our parents and children.

But for him, the only alternative to burning crop residues is to join the queue to hire machines to clear his field, which would cost him about $100 for his four-acre farm.

Also Read: India Is Reaching The Last Mile Through Health and Wellness Centres: Union Health Minister

The average waiting time to rent a machine is about two weeks. Buying one for nearly 300,000 rupees ($3,606) is unaffordable for the small farmers in the village, they said, highlighting the challenge authorities face in trying to improve northern India’s air every winter.

More than 85 per cent of Indian farmers are categorised as small, meaning that, like Mr Sharma, they own about four acres or fewer. Together, they control 47 per cent of the country’s crop area, government figures show.

Residents in Delhi and surrounding areas in Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Punjab states experienced some of the filthiest air in the world in the last week, data from the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) showed.

Delhi has closed primary schools and restricted road traffic, while international cricketers in the city skipped practice ahead of a World Cup match on Monday.

Stubble burning in Punjab and Haryana has typically accounted for 30% to 40% of Delhi’s October-November pollution, according to government air-quality monitoring agency SAFAR.

Also Read: Air Quality Turns ‘Severe’ In Some Places In Haryana, ‘Poor’ In Parts Of Punjab

In response to government incentives and fines, the number of fires has declined by 40 per cent-50 per cent this year from a year ago, the government estimates, but nearly a dozen farmers across three Karnal villages told Reuters they would keep burning. Dharamvir Singh, adding he had cleared out 10 acres that way and would do the same for another 10-15 acres of own and leased land, said,

No one in our village has been fined so far though scores have burnt stubble. I am coughing every day and feel irritation in my eyes but would prefer to take some medicine or a drink in the evening than incur extra costs.

Political Will Lacking

Ajay Singh Rana, a Haryana farm official, said the number of farms burning stubble in Karnal had dropped to 96 so far this year from 270 last year. He said fines had been imposed in 73 cases.

While the burning continues, Mr Sharma’s uncle, Mukhi Ram Sharma, said he was largely staying home. He said,

I have been feeling breathless and very uncomfortable for the past month.

During the weekend, Reuters saw at least ten farm fires in Samalkha, Barota and Budhanpur villages in Karnal district late in the evening when the risk of detection is considered to be less. The district’s air quality index (AQI) has read “very poor” at over 300 for the last few days, CPCB data shows.

Also Read: Exposure To Air Pollution Can Increase Blood Sugar Levels, Risks Of Type 2 Diabetes: Study

The figure has remained well above 400 in Delhi, with low wind speeds also helping to trap other emissions from traffic and industry.

Some Haryana residents said authorities hesitated to take tough action against farmers, who represent a sizeable share of the vote, ahead of a general election due early next year. Adding the pollution had disrupted outdoor wrestling practice for two of his daughters, Bajinder Pal Punia, 54, said,

No one has the political will to stop this nuisance.

(This story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)

NDTV – Dettol have been working towards a clean and healthy India since 2014 via the Banega Swachh India initiative, which is helmed by Campaign Ambassador Amitabh Bachchan. The campaign aims to highlight the inter-dependency of humans and the environment, and of humans on one another with the focus on One Health, One Planet, One Future – Leaving No One Behind. It stresses on the need to take care of, and consider, everyone’s health in India – especially vulnerable communities – theLGBTQ population,indigenous people, India’s different tribes, ethnic and linguistic minorities, people with disabilities, migrants, geographically remote populations, gender and sexual minorities. In wake of the currentCOVID-19 pandemic, the need for WASH (Water,SanitationandHygiene) is reaffirmed as handwashing is one of the ways to prevent Coronavirus infection and other diseases. The campaign will continue to raise awareness on the same along with focussing on the importance of nutrition and healthcare for women and children, fightmalnutrition, mental wellbeing, self care, science and health,adolescent health & gender awareness. Along with the health of people, the campaign has realised the need to also take care of the health of the eco-system. Our environment is fragile due to human activity, which is not only over-exploiting available resources, but also generating immense pollution as a result of using and extracting those resources. The imbalance has also led to immense biodiversity loss that has caused one of the biggest threats to human survival – climate change. It has now been described as a “code red for humanity.” The campaign will continue to cover issues likeair pollution,waste management,plastic ban,manual scavengingand sanitation workers andmenstrual hygiene. Banega Swasth India will also be taking forward the dream of Swasth Bharat, the campaign feels that only a Swachh or clean India wheretoiletsare used andopen defecation free (ODF)status achieved as part of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan launched byPrime Minister Narendra Modiin 2014, can eradicate diseases like diahorrea and the country can become a Swasth or healthy India.

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