The recent menace of massive haze over parts of India that has been created by the burning of agricultural residue could soon reach similar proportions in Madhya Pradesh as well with farmers showing no sign of wanting to discontinue the practice and government also not having any success in discouraging the practice.
Adding to the problem is the fact that in MP, large tracts of land have come under paddy cultivation in the past few years.
According to statistics from the agriculture department, paddy is planted in about 20 lakh hectares in MP. Paddy stubs left after harvesting are burnt by farmers to clear the fields for the next crop.
Apart from this, a part of the remains of the soybean crop -- which is sown in nearly 60 lakh hectares -- are also burnt. Crop residue burning is done on a much bigger scale at the end of the rabi season.
As per an estimate from the agriculture department, wheat stubs over 38 lakh hectares are burnt in April and May in MP.
However, the negative aspect on human health is far higher in the October-November period in the rabi season as lower temperatures keep pollutants suspended closer to the ground.
Burning makes soil devoid of natural nutrients and kills useful microbes
The burning not only adds to the pollution but also makes the soil devoid of natural nutrients and kills microbes beneficial to crops.
However, with narrowing margins in agriculture, burning residue is the most economical way of clearing fields for the next crop compared to expensive ploughing operations.
Agriculture dept has failed to control this practice
Meanwhile, the state agriculture department has not achieved much success in controlling this practice.
“It is a socio-economic problem. We have issued advisories to farmers and have programs to create awareness hoping that it will change the mindset of farmers towards crop residue burning,” says principal secretary, agriculture, Rajesh Rajora.
The advisories issued by the government include asking farmers to use straw reapers along with combine harvesters, promoting custom hiring centres, deep ploughing and zero tillage machines.
Coercive approach on the issue didn’t succeed
‘Happy seeder’ -- an implement that allows sowing of next crop along with stubs -- is also promoted, as is the use of rotovator, an implement that allows for mixing crop residue in the soil itself.
The state agriculture department had also attempted a coercive approach on the issue writing to all collectors to consider taking legal action against farmers burning residue under section 144 of CrPC. This has not been successful either.