Douse the farm fire – “Stubble burning Issue”

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Synopsis: Despite various measures taken by both, state governments and central government, the issue of stubble burning continue to add to the air pollution in the North India and NCR region. It calls for a fresh relook at the issue.

Introduction

The stubble burning incidents are expected to increase this time compared to last year, when the farm fires played havoc. Neither the threat of punitive action nor the incentives for safe management of the leftover crop biomass had deterred the farmers from torching their fields. Since Punjab and Uttar Pradesh (UP) are now heading for polls and the farmers’ agitation is continuing unabated, stringent measures to curb this recurring menace are unlikely.  The Union government, too, has not come up with any concrete proposal or strategy to combat this practice.

Why do farmers prefer stubble burning?

Firstly, it is essentially the result of the need to clear the land quick enough for the timely planting of the next wheat crop.

Secondly, despite government subsidies, alternative methods are costly, which makes farmers reluctant to adopt them.

Thirdly, the alternative method takes time to get rid of stubble, which delays the sowing season of wheat. The use of the stubble decomposer produced by the New Delhi-based Indian Agricultural Research Institute has also failed to attract farmers’ fancy, despite its usefulness, because of the time factor.

Finally, the absence of a lucrative market for wheat straw, compels farmers to go for stubble burning.

All this calls to relook at the issue and adopt a suitable way forward.

Way forward

There is a need to create a market for paddy biomass by converting it into an economic good to generate additional income for the farmers. Some start-ups have also come up to procure biomass from the farmers for producing manure and biofuel. The Haryana government has announced plans to offer ₹1,000 an acre to farmers who, instead of burning the residue, give it to the industrial units for various uses. The Punjab government has suggested a premium of ₹100 per quintal on the minimum support price of paddy for those farmers who do not torch their fields.

Despite all these, the best solution would be to wean the farmers of northern states away from paddy cultivation by incentivizing the growth of alternative shorter-duration crops that would vacate the land in time for wheat sowing.

Source: This post is based on the article Douse the farm fire published in Business Standard on 3rd September 2021.

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