19% less farm fires in Haryana this year
Govt vigil, cash subsidies, incentives, result in checking the menace; yet the seven main paddy growing districts continue to be notoriousUpdated: Nov 11, 2019 22:32 IST
Even as an 18.6% dip in farm fires has been noticed in Haryana this paddy harvest season, a complete check on stubble burning still remains a challenge. The stubble burning caused – like in the past – a severe damage to climate, badly affecting the air quality in several cities, including Delhi.
The government as well as the farmers are of the opinion that officials’ vigil, government’s cash subsidies and incentives, besides awareness drives have resulted in fewer incident of stubble burning this year, but the seven main paddy growing districts in the state remain notorious for the practice.
According to the latest figures of the Haryana state pollution control board (HSPCB), the total number of stubble burning incidents recorded till November 10 is 5,920 as compared to 7,273 cases till this date last year.
Even the state agriculture department officials are expecting a fall in area under farm fires. Last year farm fires were reported on 1.55 lakh hectares in the state which has about 12.88 lakh hectares under paddy cultivation. This year’s figures would be known only after about a week as paddy harvesting, which starts from mid-September, continues till about November 20.
Announcing incentives for farmers for in-situ or ex-situ management of crop residue, the government on Sunday appointed five top officials, additional chief secretaries PK Das, Devender Singh, TC Gupta, and principal secretaries Mahavir Singh and Anurag Rastogi, to monitor stubble burning in the five most notorious districts – Kaithal, Fatehabad, Sirsa, Jind and Hisar, respectively. They are also expected to take up the matter of linkage of bales or stubble generated out of the ex-situ managements with the industries, which could utilise it.
The government has already decided to provide ₹1,000 per acre operational charges for crop residue management, besides ₹100 per quintal of paddy purchased (non-Basmati) at mandis for farmers who would have managed the stubble and not burnt it.
In regard to cases against farmers involved in burning the stubble, till Sunday, 1,368 FIRs under Section 188 (disobedience to order duly promulgated by public servant) of the Indian Penal Code and Section 39 of Environmental Protection Act had been registered against erring farmers.
Terming the fall in stubble burning cases an achievement, HSPCB member secretary S Narayanan said, “A strict enforcement at field-level with special focus on habitually burning villages, deployment of eco-friendly harvesting equipments in huge number as per central government scheme, creation of awareness among farmers and cooperation of farmers- all have contributed to this positive result.”
“The current figures indicate an improvement over the last years both in numbers as well as in area, though we are still on job and it is too early to hail the same as we still have at least two more weeks to go,” he adds.
At least 60% of the total incidents reported in state are from Karnal, Kaithal, Kurukshetra and Fatehabad alone.
At 1,163, the maximum number of cases were recorded in Kaithal, followed by 1,122 in Fatehabad, 1,069 in Karnal, 717 in Kurukshetra, 492 in Jind, 361 in Ambala, 339 in Sirsa, 255 in Yamunanagar and 203 in Palwal.
In 2018, Fatehabad topped the list with 1,899 cases, followed by Kaithal with 1,333 cases, Karnal 889, Sirsa 862, Kurukshetra 737, Jind 587 and Ambala 340 cases.
Officials at the fields espouse a special drive throughout the year with a special focus on these districts from where the maximum cases of stubble burning were reported.
With decrease in the incidence of farm fires and other climatic factors, the air quality index (AQI) in most cities has improved. It has returned to the “poor quality’’ from the “severe” category reported earlier this month.
The AQI in the most cities, including Karnal, Kurukshetra, Kaithal, Jind and Panipat has substantially improved, though Fatehabad, Sirsa, Hisar, Faridabad and Gurgaon were still categorised as “poor” on Monday. The air quality of industrial city of Panipat was still “severe”. On November 3, the AQI of at least 17 cities in the state were in the “severe” category.
A complete check on stubble burning still remains a challenge for authorities as small and marginal farmers are unable to adopt the latest technologies introduced by the government.
“Since most machines can only be run by a 55 HP tractor, which is beyond the reach of small farmers, they prefer to burn the crop waste as they do not have much time to get rid of it before they prepare the fields for wheat sowing,” says Sunil Kumar, a farmer of Karnal, who owns two acres of land and doesn’t have a tractor.
“Most of the farmers burning crop waste are small and marginalised, who are unable to purchase this heavy machinery for which the government is providing 50 to 80% subsidy,” says a senior official of agriculture department, adding that most of the beneficiaries of cash subsidy (for implements) scheme are big farmers and the small farmers do not get much benefit of these schemes.