Farmers cite lack of options as stubble burning makes air toxic in northern India – Reuters

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KHAMANON: Smoke billows from fields in India’s Punjab state as several thousand acres of stubble are set ablaze, shrouding surrounding areas in a thick gray blanket.

The national capital Delhi and surrounding areas are shrouded in a layer of smog every winter as cold, heavy air traps construction dust, vehicle emissions and smoke from stubble burning in the states of Punjab and of Haryana.

Raging farm fires in these states have become commonplace as farmers burn crop waste to clean up their fields after a harvest and prepare for the next sowing.

As a rule, harvesting of crops sown in summer begins in October, and sowing for the winter crop is carried out a few weeks after harvest.

Farmers in Punjab, known as India’s breadbasket, say they have no other choice to dispose of their crop waste.

“If, instead of burning, the stubble has to be removed in some other way, it involves a lot of expense,” Paramjit Singh, general secretary of a major farmers’ union in Punjab, told Reuters.

But he said the stubble fires were hurting locals more than people in Delhi, about 280 km (170 miles) south of the town of Khamanon in Punjab’s Fatehgarh Sahib district.

“It will reach Delhi much later, but the first (victim) is the farmer as he stands in the middle when he burns it,” said Singh, 45, standing in a field of burnt crop waste near Khamanon as the orange flames were consuming. neighboring fields.

“He’s powerless, he doesn’t turn it on by choice.”

The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), which is in charge of government in Delhi and Punjab, has taken responsibility for failing to curb stubble burning and said last week it aimed to tackle the problem by November next year.

“We have distributed about 120,000 machines to farmers who help destroy crop residues without having to burn them,” Punjab Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann told reporters.

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He said the Punjab Agricultural University had developed a mobile app to identify the location of such machines and the government had also set up a bio-energy plant for crop stubble removal.

The AAP urged the federal government to facilitate joint meetings among northern states to identify the causes of the pollution and propose solutions to address the problem.

A federal government official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the center has already given funds to state authorities to provide farmers with alternative ways to get away from stubble burning.

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