High cost of agricultural residue burning machinery and lack of an alternative mechanism are proving to be biggest hurdles in the implementation of the ban on burning paddy stubble in Punjab and Haryana. The farmers in the states continue to ignore warnings by authorities on burning paddy stubble, thus inviting health risks and adverse effects on soil quality. The Haryana and Punjab governments have imposed a ban on burning paddy residue, with erring farmers subject to prosecution on their failure to toe the official line. The state authorities are also providing subsidy on farm implements like happy seeder, rotavators and straw reapers for managing straw in a sustainable manner to stop the practice. However, farmers, especially with small land holdings, rue that that do not have the adequate financial capital to buy the machinery. They also complain about lack of an alternative way to get rid of the menace. "These machines are very costly which can only be operated by expensive tractors.
Small farmers cannot arrange such machines for dealing with the crop residue," Bhupinder Singh, a farmer from Karnal in Haryana, said. The small land holding farmers also allege harassment at the hands of authorities. Many farmers in the states have also staged protests against the authorities in this regard. In neighbouring Punjab, in a defiance of government orders, farmers in a few villages in Sangrur and Bathinda districts collectively burnt the stubble yesterday. "Farmers do not have money to make alternative arrangements, what is the option left with them," asked Ran Singh, a BKU leader from Sangrur. It has been noted that the stubble burning in the two leading agrarian states was leading to a rise in pollution levels in the neighbouring national capital. Speaking at Nawanshahr in Punjab today, environmentalist Balbir Singh Seechewal urged well-off farmers to come to the rescue of small and marginal farmers in managing their crop residue. Punjab Pollution Control Board (PPCB) chairman K S Pannu said they were taking all measures to control paddy stubble burning in the state. In Haryana, the stubble burning problem persists each year around October-November in the paddy belt of Kaithal, Kurukshetra, Karnal and Yamunanagar. Burning of paddy residue causes air pollution, smog and also lead to serious medical problems such as breathing issues, allergies and asthma attacks. It causes emission of smoke and toxic gases such as carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, methane and nitrous oxide. It also leads to poor soil health as the phenomenon eliminates essential nutrients, experts said.
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