The stock of Delhi’s Pollution – Is It Really Just Farmers at Fault?

Delhi's Pollution

This year, immediately after Diwali, the air quality of Delhi and NCR region and neighboring states like Punjab, Haryana dropped to Hazardous levels. Over the years, pollution levels are touching grave levels in the region. As per a study carried out by the World Health Organization (WHO) out of 1600 cities, New Delhi is the worst in major cities in the world when it comes to air pollution.

This drastic change in air quality was felt in November 2016, when air pollution spiked far beyond bearable levels in the city. Whopping Levels of PM2.5 and PM 10 particulate matter that hit 999 micrograms per cubic meter, when the safe range for these pollutants is just 60 and 100 respectively. This is ten times the level that we can safely handle.

Subsequently in November 2017, the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) revealed that the air quality index (AQI) of 448, was making it ‘severe’ and this is considered as the worst and even healthy people are not spared by its ill effects.

In Delhi, poor quality air is causing irreversible damages and damaging the lungs of 2.2 million or roughly 50 percent of all children. So what are the causes of this drastic levels of pollutants affecting the air quality of the capital and adjoining areas? The reasons are many, but major factors attributed are the ever-increasing vehicles on the roads, rampant industrial pollution and also the stubble burning exercise in the neighboring states of Punjab and Haryana.

So with other factors remaining fairly the same, or a marginal increase, the stubble burning exercise is considered a major factor in the rise in smog levels at this time of the year in the region. This is the time roughly October- November when after cutting take the crop of rice, farmers get rid of the stubble by burning them. And a bumper crop would mean more stubble and hence more of a nuisance. And this adds up to the smog and hence a build-up of smog when the region is getting ready for winter months ahead. To top it all Diwali crackers, an increased number of vehicles on the road brings a recipe for disaster for the residents.

This time around the situation was so critical last week that Schools had to declare holidays and sale of masks just increased manifold. People complained of burning in the eyes, difficulty breathing and many more of such issues. While the odd and even scheme, maybe of some relief to tackle this situation in the capital, it definitely needs more measures. Governments are pressurized to come up with a better solution to stubble burning, which is making the whole scenario worse.

While the Governments play the blame game, and farmers are held accountable for this mess, we all need to work together to find an effective solution for the same. Farmers are ready to work towards a solution if they are provided with one. And while the Governments are searching for ways for the same, here are some really inexpensive ways of tackling this mess.

Use Stubble to feed cattle rather than burning- As we all know all agriculture-related produce and even by-products are always good to use in various stages and can be easily accommodated which means agricultural products always find a use as a by-product in ways more than one. Here also this stubble can act as food for the cattle. In fact, what will come as a surprise is the fact that one community is already doing this and they have pledged towards not burning stubble and using it to feed animals. And this community is the farmer community of course, but the ones who follow Dera Sacha Sauda. As it was their Guru Saint Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh Ji, who first put up this suggestion a couple of years ago, sensing this concern area. And as a means to oblige to the Guru’s words, Followers pledge to use this to feed animals and not burn them as they usually do. As it adds to pollution and secondly this practice also affects the fertility levels of the land. So it’s high time, this Saint’s advice is taken seriously by everyone else, for their own good.

Also if you do not have enough cattle to feed, why not transport it to the “tables” and other places which need them. What better way to tackle this mess than by feeding it to the hungry and getting more output in terms of nutritious milk rather than injecting the climate with high levels of methane, carbon monoxide, etc.

Using stubble as organic manure – making manure to be used on to farms out of stubble is not a tedious process either. This can also lead to saving costs in putting manure on the farms.

Setting up Biomass fuel plants – to generate fuel using the paddy husk farmers can even opt for this method. Although this requires considerable support from the Government.

Providing stubble collecting machines – Since the farmers do not have the necessary infrastructure to collect stubble themselves, Governments can come up with schemes to provide the same to farmers to collect stubble.

Providing reasonable labor to reap the paddy so as to avoid stubble generation- This is one of the major cause, farmers prefer to burn the stubble as this is the quite handy and only option at hand, that requires minimum effort. Providing labor would also give temporary employment to more people who are in need.

As mentioned earlier, with Government intervention and support a lot can be accomplished and the situation can be much better. In fact, the scenario can be improved even in more employment generation and farmer-friendly initiatives. Nevertheless, farmers too can take some simple measures themselves to make sure they come clean of this blame game. And the people are spared of this nuisance that grips them year on year at this time of the year. Provided other parameters adding to pollution too are kept in check.