Stubble burning practice has been from ancient times. It is the deliberate setting fire of the straw stubble that remains after wheat and other grains have been harvested. The practice was widespread until the 1990s, when governments increasingly restricted its use.
The smoke, spread over the skies and also threatening the environments. Though it’s not a new phenomenon, its harmful effects on environment, human health and productivity have raised serious concern. The governments of the two states have been trying to curb the illegal bi-annual practice, but their efforts have been dwarfed by the enormity of the problem so far.
The reason: The Centre and the state governments spring into action when the seasonal problem surfaces and then lose interest when the smog settles down. There is no long-term strategy to find a solution as farmers continue to put their paddy and wheat crop residue on fire, causing severe air pollution.
“A three-year plan to mechanise the entire stubble-collection process was discussed last year. It involves an expenditure of `100 crore and active support of Union ministry of environment and forests. Currently, to collect the stubble and use it for economic benefit is a huge challenge,” says BS Sidhu, Punjab agriculture commissioner. The plan envisages mechanised collection of crop residue from across the state. “We are working on a mechanism to incentivise farmers so that they feel encouraged to retain stubble for soil improvement and partly collect it for economic gains,” he said.
The Punjab government gives subsidy on farm implements and machinery such as the ‘happy seeder’, baler, zero till and chopper-cum-shredder to encourage farmers to stop burning their crop residue. In Haryana too, the response to schemes for subsidy on such advanced implements has been tepid. While some farmers have purchased these machines, most marginal and small farmers continue with the age-old practice.
Haryana is also planning to set up two biomass-based power plants in addition to the three existing units. While the response to the state’s plans for biomass-based units has been lukewarm so far, a renewable energy department official was hopeful that efforts would show results with more incentives to generators and farmers.