Even as farmers in Punjab continue to burn crop residue despite a ban on stubble burning, the Punjab pollution control board says there has been a dip in the number of cases compared to last year. The decrease has been attributed to a delay in paddy harvesting due to inclement weather, but the farmers say that in the absence of an alternate mechanism to dispose of the stubble, they will have to burn crop residue.
Paddy is grown on 65 lakh acres of land in Punjab. An estimated 20 million tonnes of paddy straw is left after harvesting every year. Farmers burn the stubble to clear their fields ahead of the wheat sowing season. According to government figures, stubble burning was a major cause of air pollution that blanketed Delhi last November, which was termed as a "health emergency".
The government has banned stubble burning in order to check air pollution. But Delhi's air quality has already slipped back to poor category due to change in the direction of the wind, which is now flowing from stubble-burning areas in Punjab and Haryana, authorities said today.
The farmers say they are helpless as the government hasn't done anything to solve the issue.
"No government is solving our issue. There has to be a mechanism to remove the stubble. The government can give us some machines to pluck out stubble. We will cooperate only when these issues are resolved," said Baint Singh, a farmer in Patiala.
Another farmer said that they have to start sowing soon, but in the absence of any alternative they will have to burn the stubble.
"We don't have a tube well, we can't sow the wheat crop till the stubble is removed. We don't have the machinery or manpower to do it, so we will just burn the stubble," said Taranjeet Singh.
This year, stubble burning has been reported at about 21 sites in Punjab - four each in Hoshiyarpur and Patiala; three in Bathinda; two in Taran Taran and Ferozepur; and one each in Gurdaspur, Nawasheher and Mohali.
Particles from stubble burning combine with industrial pollution, vehicle exhaust and dust to cover the region every year as winter approaches and wind speeds drop. But the Punjab government said no defiance will be tolerated and the erring farmers will be fined.
"We will take strict action and fine the farmers who will burn stubble," said Kamaldeep Singh Sanga, Deputy Commissioner.
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