scorecardHere’s how Delhi’s pollution rise during the winter can be curbed
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Here’s how Delhi’s pollution rise during the winter can be curbed

Here’s how Delhi’s pollution
rise during the winter can be curbed
Retail2 min read

North India faces an annual trauma as winter approaches -- the air in the region having more than 200 million people becomes toxic.

Fingers are pointed at the hand that feeds India; farmers in the granary of the country are rebuked asking them not to burn agriculture waste in their fields as their action fouls the air in mega cities like New Delhi, Lucknow, and Allahabad.

There is no doubt that after the monsoon ends the vast paddy fields in India's granary Haryana and Punjab turn into cremation grounds where the left-over paddy straw is burnt in vast swathes.

The fires are so much and so widespread that satellites flying hundreds of kilometers above the Earth record their presence.

This is also the time when generally the westerly winds prevail and a giant plume of smoke covers north India. Satellite pictures depict the smoke plume with clarity and alarm bells starting ringing in the corridors of power in India's capital, as per a news report by an agency.

Last winter, even the Chief Justice of India passed strict orders and even contributed his ritual bit by car-pooling, despite his efforts the air remains toxic. Delhi's air is a complex cocktail of noxious exhausts from automobiles, industry, thermal power plants and 'charvested' or burnt fields. Nobody really knows who is the bigger culprit.

But it is easy to point fingers at the farmers little realizing that behind the farmers burning agricultural waste is the deep-deep crisis that is brewing in agriculture and it is hugely interlinked to all the elementary ingredients for a healthy life, air, water and land.

The second big problem arises once the crop has been harvested which happens during the post-monsoon season, at that point, the rice grains are sold at government-determined minimum support prices and the farmers are left with large amounts of straw. Unfortunately straw from paddy contains a lot of silica and is very rough and hence bovines find it very difficult to eat it. Now when the farmers are in a hurry to plant the next crop, they are left with no alternative but to hurriedly burn the agri-waste.

According to a recent State of Environment of Punjab published by the local government "open field burning of straw after combine harvesting is a common practice in the state in order to ensure early preparation of fields for the next crop. Punjab produces around 23 million tons of rice straw and 17 million tons of wheat straw annually.

So when most farmers are custodians of innate native wisdom why are they indulging in such profligate and damaging practices, unfortunately it is really the government's agri-economic policies that are to blame.

Subsidised or free electricity to farmers makes them use their pump sets endlessly and then on top of it an assured minimum support price gives them a ready market, leaving no incentive to be considerate towards the top soil, deep acquirers and mother earth in general and now this new headache of being dubbed the fountain head of wide spread air pollution.

A comprehensive restructuring of the agricultural economy is required if denizens of Delhi and north India don't want to choke to death.

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