Punjab and its Stubble-Burning Bind
Stubble are the straws belonging to grain plants that are left sticking out of the ground after the harvest season. Farmers in India need to get rid of this stubble to prepare for the second sowing season from the end of October to November. Last year, stubble burning in Northern India significantly contributed to carbon monoxide, methane, and volatile organic compound pollution, which resulted in smog that caused several health problems for citizens. The heavy fog formation at the end of the harvest season could become an annual concern for many residents of Northern India.
Currently, the majority of these farmers burn their stubble to clear their land. This method is inefficient as it results in massive amounts of smoke, which last year prevented the burning of around 15 million tonnes of stubble. Furthermore, many Indians were not able to leave their houses without wearing an air mask to prevent the intake of the pollution. It was a major factor in certifying Delhi as the most polluted city in the world.
There are alternate methods to clear stubble, such as using the Happy Seeder. The Happy Seeder is an eco-friendly machine that is used to sow wheat without burning any stubble. The only problem is that this machine is largely unaffordable. The Happy Seeder can cost up to $3,000 CAD, and 66% of Punjab farmers earn less than $1,010 CAD per year. Also, considering that many Punjab farmers have debts worth tens of thousands of dollars, it is nearly impossible for them to purchase such a device.
The solution that the Punjab government has implemented this year is to fine farmers around $4,500 CAD for burning their stubble. Unfortunately, Punjab farmers can afford neither the more environmentally-friendly machinery nor the fine for burning stubble. Politician Sukhpal Singh Khaira remarked in an interview with Hindustan Times that “farmers have no option, as the government has completely failed to provide machinery, subsidy or financial assistance”. So, what should the Punjab farmers do now?
Some farmers have already started to burn the stubble to prepare for the sowing season at the end of October. Others are waiting for the government's assistance. Regardless, this is a serious issue that can’t be ignored. This pollution is affecting the health of around 84% of Punjab’s population as well as neighbouring states such as Delhi, which cannot afford more of the destructive effects of pollution
I believe this environmental issue has become a political concern, as well. It should be the government's responsibility to provide low-income farmers with machinery, such as the Happy Seeder, or financial assistance to prevent stubble burning. Instead, it seems that the government is looking to profit off this problem by not addressing it all. If the government can’t afford to accommodate farmers with these resources, there should be some sort of campaign held to raise money for this purpose. Even if the municipal government obtains four or five machines, farmers can share these machines to clear their stubble. This could result in a cleaner and healthier environment for many people, and it’s clear that such change needs to take place now.