Why do Indian farmers burn stubble despite pollution, health risks?

A farmer burns stubble in a crop field in a village in Karnal district in India's northern state of Haryana on November 4, 2023.  - Reuters
A farmer burns stubble in a crop field in a village in Karnal district in India’s northern state of Haryana on November 4, 2023. – Reuters

Indian farmers are burning stubble despite being aware of its impact on air quality in nearby areas and in the world’s most polluted capital, New Delhi, which is currently battling severe smog conditions, leading to private The use of vehicles has been banned and schools have been closed.

The air quality in a village in Haryana state is so bad that a small-scale farmer shared that it is causing health problems among family members, especially his asthmatic uncle, who has difficulty breathing and inflammation in his lungs. A nebulizer is required to pump the medicine directly.

“We know that stubble burning is harmful, especially for the health of our parents and children,” said Sharma, 22.

But for this resident of Karnal village, known for rice and wheat cultivation, the only alternative to burning crop residues is to join the queue to hire machines to clear his farm, which consists of four of his It will cost about $100 for an acre of land. reuters informed of.

The average wait time to rent a machine, which costs about 300,000 rupees ($3,606) in northern India, is two weeks, making it impossible for small farmers like Sharma, who have four acres or less. There is land.

It highlights the challenge authorities face in improving north India’s air every winter.

More than 85% of Indian farmers are classified as small farmers, meaning that, like Sharma, they own about four acres or less of land. According to government figures, together they control 47% of the country’s crop area.

Residents of Delhi and adjoining areas of Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Punjab experienced the world’s dirtiest air last week, data from the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) shows.

Delhi has closed primary schools and restricted road traffic, while international cricketers in the city skipped practice ahead of the World Cup match on Monday.

According to the government air quality monitoring agency System of Air Quality Forecasting and Research (SAFAR), stubble burning in Punjab and Haryana typically contributes 30% to 40% of Delhi’s October-November pollution.

In response to government incentives and fines, fire incidents have declined by 40%-50% this year compared with a year ago, the government estimates, but about a dozen farmers from three villages in Karnal said. They will keep the fire burning, reuters informed of.

Dharamveer Singh said, “No one has been fined in our village so far, although many people have burnt stubble.” He said that he has vacated 10 acres of land and 10-15 acres of his own and leased land. Will do the same for land also.

“I am coughing every day and feeling burning eyes, but would prefer to have some medicine or drink in the evening rather than spend extra.”

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