Since 2017, there has been about 50% reduction in agricultural area where crop residue is burnt in Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Delhi every October, according to satellite data collated by the Indian Council of Agricultural Research.
There has also been about 15% reduction in the number of crop-residue burning events, ICAR director general Trilochan Mohapatra said on Tuesday.
Mohapatra said this was mainly because more farmers have been opting for mechanised technology to dispose of crop residue, such as the Happy-Seeder/zero-tillage technology that cuts paddy straw, sows wheat in the soil and puts straw over the sown area, making it act like mulch.
In 2018, the Centre had launched a ₹1,150 crore scheme to subsidise farm straw-management machinery in the northwestern states where rampant crop burning leads to a spike in air pollution levels before the onset of winters. The impact of this scheme on air pollution in Delhi-NCR will be assessed for the second time this October.
About 56,290 residue-management machines have been bought by farmers and custom-hiring centres since 2017, of which 19,288 were Happy Seeders or zero-till machines, Mohapatra said.
“Of 30,000-35,000 villages in the region (Punjab and Haryana), about 4,500 villages are [residue] burning-free, mainly because of awareness campaigns by the government…Haryana can be burning-free, but some spots will remain in Punjab,” he said.
Farmers can hire Happy-Seeder or other machinery at ₹1,200 to ₹1,500 per acre and will get a 50% subsidy if they choose to buy the machine in 2019.
Harinder Singh Lakhowal, general secretary of the Bharatiya Kisan Union in Punjab, said, “I don’t think there is a 50% reduction in crop-residue burning in Punjab, there may be a 30% reduction…Farmers will take it up on a large scale if they are given a direct subsidy of ₹3,000 per acre”.
Experts from the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center, Punjab Agricultural University said the use of residue-management technologies had led to a drop in air pollution levels in Punjab’s paddy zone.
Aug 14, 2019 01:18 IST