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Environment

Stubble Trouble By Binny Yadav

Supreme Court of India takes note of pollution due to stubble burning in national capital Delhi. It is high time other agencies come forward and fight the menace of stubble burning

After a long spell of exceptionally clean air due to lockdown in pandemic the deadly winter Pollution of Delhi is back even though the actual north Indian winters are yet to set in.

The same old story of high pollutant level of Delhi which is way beyond the human tolerance levels is repeating once again. So, has the government and pollution controlling agencies learned nothing with the past or even the lockdown experiences.

The clear blue skies of lockdown days had given a hope and a chance to the agencies to rejig the old solutions which they had been experimenting unsuccessfully for many years.

With pollution level hovering more than 300 AQI of PM 2.5 particles (indicator of high level of pollution) in early October, which is much above the 100 AQI, the permissible level, it is back to where the national capital of India had left it last season.

According to sciencedirect.com pollution levels in Delhi reduced to half to its usual level during lockdowns.

Supreme Court order on Delhi Pollution

Taking into account the past experiences of winter pollution due to stubble burning in the capital Delhi, Supreme court took a strong decision of appointing retired justice Madan B Lokur to monitor the stubble burning in Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh.

2019 saw more than once the emergency situation due to pollution in the capital Delhi when the government had to shut schools, offices and institutes.

The Supreme Court order,

  1. Directs the Environment Pollution Control Authority and the chief secretaries of the three states to assist justice Lokur panel.
  2. The concerned state governments have been directed to provide financial and other secretariats help to the panel
  3. The apex court has directed the National cadet Corps and National Service Scheme and Bharat Scouts to assist the panel
  4. The committee will submit its report within 15 days

Reasons of Pollutions in Delhi

Stubble burning is considered to be the biggest reason for winter pollution of the capital Delhi.

So, what is stubble and what is stubble burning which so stubbornly keeps polluting the Delhi air year after year and refuses to be tamed.

Stubble burning is intentionally setting of fire to the straw stubble that remains after the harvesting of the crops like paddy, wheat etc. The practice was widespread until 1990s when governments increasingly restricted its use.

The months of winter after the retreating of monsoon in India, it is the harvesting season of paddy and the farmers resort to cheaper ways of getting rid of the stubbles in their farms to prepare their fields for the next crop.

Delhi, due to sharing its borders with Punjab and Haryana and also due to specific weather and geographical conditions bear the brunt of cheaper and easier choices of the getting rid of stubble by the farmers.

According to an August 2019 study titled ‘fields on fire: Alternatives to Crop residue burning in India’ published in the journal Science, farmers in northwest India burn around 23 million tonnes of rice straw so that they can clear the land quickly for the sowing of wheat.

Effect of Stubble burning

The results are devastating. Air quality monitoring stations in Delhi NCR registered around 999 on the AQI at some point in 2019 when the schools had to be closed. According to some reports, stubble contributes to 20-30 per cent pollution of Delhi.

Delhi government had to declayer “state of emergency” in 2019 and had to shut schools due to “stubble burning pollution level was very high “. 

Sollution for Stubble burning

There have been many solutions suggested time and again by the agencies like Waste Decomposer, to converting Crop Stubble into animal feed, manure and cardboard.

In first week of October this year Delhi Chief minister Arvind Kejriwal also endorsed a technique by the Pusa Research Institute which presented, “a very cheap alternate solution to the problem of stubble burning. They have formulated capsules, four capsules can be mixed with a liquid solution prepared by jaggery and gram flour and can be sprayed to cover one hectare of land

An innocent and a naïve business desire of farmers to make best use of their land has resulted in a big menace for human race in form of air pollution threatening lives. It is important for the government agencies to not only strictly implement the measures to check stubble burning but also convince the farmers to adopt alternative ways of preparing their fields for the next crop without harming the environment.

It is most important to check air pollution due to stubble burning given the fact that India is reeling under convid 19 pandemic and we do not know yet how the corona virus would behave during deadly winter pollution.

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