Burning question, again

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The Delhi High Court’s directive to four neighbouring States – Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan – to prevent burning of crop stubble, will go a long way in addressing the deteriorating air quality in the national capital. A Bench of Justices BD Ahmed and Ashutosh Kumar cautioned the Chief Secretaries of the four States that they would be held responsible if the practice did not end. The rise in air pollution during winters is a normal phenomenon caused by varied reasons. Delhi’s air pollution is among the deadliest in the world. Measures like the odd-even scheme, ban on diesel cars etc, have not contributed much. The problem arises especially during the onset of winter, which is also the crop-burning season.
The capital in wrapped in a thick layer of smog, the fallouts of which not only pose serious health hazards, but can also lead to dangerous consequences such as road accidents etc.
Stubble-burning has been one of the widespread methods used by farmers to clear off their crop after harvest so as to prepare their fields for the next round of cultivation. They start preparing sometime between early October and mid-November, which also coincides with the Diwali festival. However, much of the blame falls on the farmers. Burning of crop residues also leads to environmental pollution and global warming. What is alarming is that despite a ban on crop-residue burning, such disposal is still the most common method
agriculturists use.
The question is: When farmers have the option of using machines to remove the stubble, why do they continue with burning? Because not only does this method quickly clear off fields, but it’s also cheap.
Moreover, it kills weeds and other pests.
On the other hand, the machine comes with an extra cost as private contractors charge for the service. But the negative after-affects of burning residues are plenty. Stubble-burning impacts soil fertility, increases pressure on scarce resources and reduces productivity of the land. This is not the first time that warnings against crop-burning have been issued. Last year, in November, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) directed authorities in the national capital and also neighbouring States to end this practice. More recently, in April, the NGT came down heavily on the issue, imposing a compensation fee on the farmers if they were found indulging in crop-burning.
The Delhi High Court and various State Governments too have asked farmers to abstain from such practices.
The problem, however, is that the authorities have failed to act in letter and spirit. Orders remain on paper and are rarely
implemented.
It is unfortunate that this issue keeps recurring, which means no concrete solution has been found to this long-festering problem.
Though the court’s order should be applauded, options for better use of the stubble must be explored to wean the farmers away from such
burning.

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