NEW DELHI, 20 October 2022: FAIFA, a leading non-profit organization representing the cause of millions of farmers and farm workers of commercial crops in India, has urged state governments to take farmers into confidence and support them with funds and equipment to effectively address the stubble burning problem.
The season of farm fires in northern India has already begun and incidents of stubble burning are going to increase sharply in the coming weeks months of October and November. The decades old post-harvest practice of burning of paddy crop stubbles is a major contributor to air pollution in the region at this time of the year.
Owing to heavy rainfall and low count of farm fires in September and early October, the air quality didn't deteriorate much. However, with stubble burning incidents on the rise, it's only a matter of time before the people of north India are exposed to highly toxic air.
The Union government has already instructed governments in Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and NCT of Delhi to "strive for achieving zero stubble burning" this year. At a high-level review meeting chaired by Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar, issues related to the actions taken by the states for management of stubble burning were discussed extensively.
Even though the state governments have started to take action, their inability to devise a clear plan, take farmers into confidence through awareness campaigns and other engagement methods, and provide them monetary and tech assistance will lead to another season of high pollution for north India.
While initiatives like using the Pusa bio-decomposer, a microbial solution that decomposes paddy in around 20 days, are welcome, the target area for the same has to be increased. It's noteworthy that the state with the maximum number of farm fires has increased the target area by just 500 acres — from 7500 acres in 2021 to 8000 acres in 2022. This kind of approach will not yield the desired results.
"The age old problem of burning crop waste needs to be addressed urgently to protect both the environment and people's health. Instead of making big announcements, state governments must collaborate with farmers to ensure a bigger impact on the ground. This can ensure resource optimization as far as material, equipment and manpower is concerned," Javare Gowda, President, Federation of All India Farmer Associations (FAIFA) said.
"State governments must earmark funds to address the stubble burning problem. They must provide the required equipment and machinery to farmers to ensure that the crop waste is properly disposed. The most important thing is to bring farmers onboard, so that the decision to ban stubble burning does not come across like a diktat but a measure to benefit everyone," Murali Babu, General Secretary, Federation of All India Farmer Associations (FAIFA) said.
In order to find an effective solution to the problem, the promotion among farmers about the three machines that help in disposing of crop waste — straw baling (ex situ), super seeding and zero tillage machines (in-situ) — must be intensified by state governments.
Image credit: Downtoearth.org