Alarming NASA Images of Paddy Straw Burning in Punjab Highlights Major Problem

Punjab a ‘burning’ state – Thick smoke from Agricultural waste fire engulfs the region By Preetinder Singh Grewal from Australia

Although, I am not arguing about the credibility of the NASA picture of these red burning dots but wonder if there’s any way to curb the ‘burning’ issue of the burning paddy straw?

TOI: Shows Data on Paddy Straw Burning
TOI: Shows Data on Paddy Straw Burning

I know there must be hundreds of research papers/articles from PAU but is there any concrete policy or implementation from State Govt? What about Punjab’s ever growing pollution and resulting health issues (7.6 crores spent on medical health bills from these fires)?

According to a TOI report, Paddy straw burning affects up to 80% of the state while the situation is bit better in Haryana when compared to Punjab.
Apart from environmental pollution the fire also burns organic matter worth Rs 250 crore annually.

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Paddy Straw Burning

Legally, if any farmer is found burning straw, PPCB has to approach court of sub-divisional magistrate concerned and proceedings are initiated under Section 144 of the CrPC. Number of farmers booked for stubble burning.

Year Farmers booked:
2013 53
2014 16
2015 Nil
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Arrests
Arrests

Farmers have their own rationale to justify the practice. “The duration of time to clear the fields is limited and unless there is easy availability of hi-tech machinery to clear the residue, farmers will have no option but to burn it”.
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There is no specific law in Punjab to ban stubble burning. Every Deputy Commissioner (DC) has the power to impose a ban under section 144 of Criminal Procedure Act. It’s a common practice in Punjab that every DC issues order pertaining to this under CrPC 144 just before paddy harvesting and wheat harvesting season in Punjab asking farmers to abstain from it but still farmers continue to do so.

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DC also has the power under 188 IPC to punish the violators creating nuisance but hardly any punishment is given under it in the state. Under the law, a violator may be punished upto six months jail and a fine of Rs. 1000. Hardly any action is taken under this law against violators in Punjab. There’s a lack of ‘political will’ resulting in poor implementation in the state.

Farmer's View
Farmer’s View

Several types of mechanisms are available now which can cut the paddy straws into small pieces of one inch each which ultimately can be converted into manure but farmers do favour this — not even two per cent of the total area (27 lakh hectares) under paddy and basmati rice in state sees the practice. (Reports Indian Express)
Another aspect – People in rural Punjab have to spend Rs 7.6 crore every year on treatment for ailments caused by stubble burning, says a recent study by Institute for Social and Economic Change, Bangalore. While stubble-burning may be a contributory factor to Delhi being branded as the most polluted city in world, it may be choking the sturdy Punjabi villagers too in more ways than one.

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The figure of Rs 7.6 crore does not include expenses on productivity loss due to illness, monetary value of discomfort and utility and additional fertilizer, pesticides and irrigation, which would inflate the loss manifold. The cost is phenomenal when the average household assets as per the survey are valued at Rs 3.5 lakh. This includes ownership of tractor, submersible pump set, milch and non-milch animals and animal house.
Reports TOI/Indian Express

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