Fighting pollution: 5 Haryana villages show the way with zero stubble burning
There has been a dip in farm fires across Haryana this year in the run-up to wheat sowing. Behind this encouraging trend are initiatives farmers have taken to deal with paddy stubble instead of burning it. The burning of crop residue after harvest is seen as the main cause behind the rise in air pollution in and around the national capital in October-November.
The initiatives include using the straw as a cushion to shield religious idols during transportation; converting the stubble into fertiliser; ploughing it out with machines; and manual harvesting.
According to S Narayanan, member secretary of the Haryana Pollution Control Board (HPCB), nearly 1,000 farmers have been challaned so far even as 80% harvesting is complete. He said a total of Rs 9 lakh has been imposed as fine on farmers who burnt stubble.
However, there have been examples to emulate. “Farmers in 123 villages of Karnal and 287 of Kurukshetra district did not burn the stubble,” Aditya Dabas, deputy director, agriculture, Karnal, said.
Here are five villages of the state that chose to shun the stubble burning practice.
Earn, don’t burn
Farmers of Rasina village of Kaithal district had sown paddy on 1,800 acres. There has been no stubble burning this year. Instead, the farmers say they earned between Rs 2,000 and Rs 2,500 per acre from the waste.
Leading the anti-stubble burning campaign in his village, Mahender Singh bought a happy seeder, a cost-effective machine that cuts and lifts paddy straw and sows wheat into the soil.
“Now, my village has six happy seeders and a custom hiring centre. That’s why no stubble burning was reported,” Singh said.
Another farmer, Rajender Singh, said: “Young farmers are educating others about the ill-effects of stubble burning.”
Stubble buyers have begun approaching the farmers and they earn about Rs 2,500 per acre for the residue.
Last year, 20 cases of stubble burning were reported from this village but this time there were none.
Areas such as Pundri in Kaithal and Nigdhu in Karnal districts are known for selling ‘parali (managed crop waste)’, which is used by sculptors of Rajasthan and Gujarat as a wrappers to protect the idols during transportation.
“There is a huge demand for Basmati straw with length of more than 24 inches in Gujarat and Rajasthan. We buy it directly from the farmers and pack it after pressing with hydraulic pressing machines to transport,” said Hemant Kumar, who runs a purchase centre in Pundri.
Carrot and stick
Farmers of Budha village in Kurukshetra district did not sow vegetables this time to ensure paddy stubble was not burnt. This village is known as a major producer of carrot. The farmers stopped sowing carrot because they had to burn the paddy residue to prepare the field.
Of the 750 acres, about 550 acres was under paddy. “The government was strict this time so most farmers did not sow carrot,” said Gurnam Singh.
“Last year, there were more than 50 incidents of crop residue burning in our village. This year, the area under carrot cultivation has come down to 100 acres against 250 acres,” said another farmer, Baldev Singh.
Machines to the rescue
The cash subsidy of up to 80% on agricultural implements designed for crop waste management brought about the change in Rampura village of Kurukshetra district. Some farmers set up custom hiring centres and rent out the machines. Satbir Singh took the lead and provides implements worth over Rs 15 lakh to farmers at low rates to motivate them to stop burning residue.
“I gave free demos to 20 farmers in my village and encouraged them to use machines to ready their fields for the next crop. Even now, farmers take my machines and they need to spend only on the fuel expenses,” he said.
About 400 acres of this village was under paddy and most of the crop was harvested with combines. “The machines are available at cheaper rates and farmers are availing of the facility,” farmer Satish Kumar said.
Crop to compost
Sarwan Majra in Karnal’s Indri block cultivated paddy in about 600 acres. This year, the villagers decided to convert the stubble into compost. An elderly farmer, Phula Ram, said, “We vowed not to burn the crop waste and dumped it in adjoining fields. We will cover it with dung that will help turn it into bio-fertiliser in six months.”
Heaps of crop waste covered with dung and dumped along the roads of this village is common. “Most of the crop was harvested with combines but no case of stubble burning was reported in our village. This is a big achievement,” said sarpanch Raj Bala.
In Jaipur village of Yamunanagar, farmers opted for manual harvesting. The villagers had sown paddy in 700-acres. Most farmers got it harvested manually instead of using combine harvesters, which costs Rs 2,500 per acre against the manual harvesting of Rs 7,000.
“After manual harvesting, farmers can sell the parali at Rs 1,500-Rs 2,000 per acre to dairy farmers ” said farmer