Indian farmers are burning crop stubble despite knowing its impact on air quality in nearby areas and in the world’s most polluted capital, New Delhi, which is currently engulfed in a monstrous smog situation that is leading to restrictions in the use of private vehicles and the closing of schools.
The air quality of a village in the state of Haryana is so bad that a small farmer shares how it has led to increasing health problems among family members, particularly his asthmatic uncle who has difficulty breathing and requires a nebulizer to pump medicine directly into the lungs of.
“We know that stubble burning is harmful, especially to the health of our parents and children,” Sharma, 22, said.
But for this resident of Karnal village, known for growing rice and wheat, the only alternative to burning crop residue is to join the queue to hire machinery to clear his field, which would cost him around $100 for his four acre farm. Reuters mentionted.
The average waiting time to rent a machine, which costs nearly INR 300,000 ($3,606) in northern India, is two weeks, making it unaffordable for small farmers like Sharma, who own four acres or less.
This highlights the challenge authorities face in improving north India’s air every winter.
More than 85% of Indian farmers are categorized as small, meaning that, like Sharma, they own about four acres or less. Together they control 47% of the country’s cultivated area, government figures show.
Residents in Delhi and surrounding areas in the states of Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Punjab experienced the world’s dirtiest air in the last week, according to data from the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB).
Delhi closed primary schools and restricted road traffic as international cricketers in the city skipped training ahead of Monday’s World Cup match.
According to the government’s air quality monitoring agency System of Air Quality Forecasting and Research (SAFAR) stubble burning in Punjab and Haryana is usually responsible for 30% to 40% of Delhi’s pollution in October-November.
In response to government incentives and fines, the number of fires has dropped by 40%-50% this year compared to a year ago, the government estimates, but nearly a dozen farmers in three Karnal villages said they will continue to burn. Reuters mentionted.
“No one in our village has been fined so far, though many stubbles have been burnt,” said Dharamvir Singh, adding that he had cleared 10 acres this way and would do the same for another 10-15 acres of his own and leased land. .
“I have a cough every day and my eyes get irritated, but I’d rather take some medicine or a drink in the evening than incur extra costs.”
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