TODAY -

Blame it on Farmers for Pollution

Kamal Baruah *



The sky was not very clear and itís hazy always. I didnít remember the last time I saw a starry night in the Capital. One might question me, if Iím not an astronomer then why should I care if I canít see the stars. I grow up relying on the natural cycle of light and darkness where electricity came later. Soon after Diwali, the weather was turning adverse and pollution steadily rising. There has been 4-fold increase in vehicles on the roads of Delhi-NCR region last 15 years.

The emission from Motor vehicle is the prime cause of poor air quality. There are millions of old vehicles plying and often emit more pollution than the current norms. The Pollution check is mere eyewash as they only collect fees. Besides there are dust and oil from industrial activities that led the Indiaís capital becoming a gas chamber.

The quality of air is so poor that breathing is equivalent to smoking a few cigarettes but everyone is passing the buck to farmers of neighbouring Punjab and Haryana. Delhiís smog blamed on burning stubble but farmers have little choice. Agricultural burning affects the city for a limited number of days. Despite a ban by the Pollution Control Board and State Government, farmers prefer stubble burning as itís cheaper and pay penalty rather than weed out the stubbles before sowing a new crop.

The noxious haze causes concern and anxiety among the citizen. A deep in wind speed and temperature push the cityís air quality in the severe zone. There is a need to look at the bigger culprits. Transport and Industry remain the biggest sources of pollutants such as PM2.5, PM10, CO, NOx, SO2. Prof MS Swaminathan, the father of Green Revolution, has objected to people blaming farmers for smog and high level of pollution in New Delhi.

Instead of blaming them, the governments in the North should work with farmers to set up Rice Bio-Parks, where farmers can convert stubble into income and employment. We should stop blaming farmers since itíll take us nowhere. Instead, we should propose methods which are economically and ecologically desirable.

He asked the Northern States to take a cue from the farmers in the South, where farmers donít resort to burn their stubble but turn covert it to use as animal feed. The residue and stubble are an important source of organic matter for the soil. Stubble burning also results in emission of harmful gases such as Carbon-monoxide, N2O, NO2, SO2, CH4 along with PM (Particulate Matter) and Hydrocarbon.

World Health Organisation data shows Indian cities dominate the top 20 most-polluted cities globally in terms of PM 2.5 levels. The atmospheric particles of PM 2.5 microns or less in diameter are the smallest and most dangerous size of airborne pollution. Fine particulate matter is an air pollutant that is a concern for people's health when levels in air are high.

By way of comparison, a human hair is about 100 micrometres. The Fine Particles less than 2.5 microns in diameter and Coarse Particles up to 10 micrometers in diameter can enter our lungs, bloodstream and even heart. Larger particles tend to be trapped in the nose, mouth or throat.

Particles can irritate eyes nose and throat. The elderly and small children are especially at risk. Indoor air filters and N95 masks can reduce exposure. Particulate Matter in the air can reduce visibility and cause the air to appear hazy when levels are elevated. Schools in the capital have to shut down for a week in November. Poor visibility leads to flight cancellations, diversions and delays during winter.

Globally, the health implications of air pollution are profound. Across the world many cities such as London, Mumbai and Beijing are extremely polluted and causing many hazardous diseases. Everyone is getting effected especially infants and old age people. It caused millions death and linked to diabetes cases and impair cognitive ability.

China builds worldís biggest air purifier tower in Xian in Shaanxi province that helped smog-cleansing function effectively covers an area around 10 sq km. They experience heavy pollution in winter for cityís heating relying on coal. Giant towers are also proposed in Delhi to clean toxic smog. The satellite imagery showed vast swathes of the northern plains. Should Govt take stringent action against farmers indulging in stubble burning?

Delhi is fighting air pollution since last 2 decades. The conversion of vehicles like city bus, auto rickshaws and taxis to CNG was its first important measure to contain pollution. The Government implemented emission norms BS-IV standards to BS-V, BS-VI. The Odd-Even measures failed to live up the occasion. The real time data analysis has begun as Smart City concept for identifying pollution hotspots inside the city.

Despite banning of DG Sets and shutting down Badarpur Thermal Power Plant, ironically Gurugram and other towns of Haryana have to depend on generators for supply of water. That hampered Delhiís time bound initiative. Delhite must cooperate with the government clean air programme for reduction in air pollution.

There is little we can do about it. Oxygen Plants can clean air at home by keeping at least one of these oxygen producing plants. Aloevera plant can function as air purifier by absorbing carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide with lot of medicinal values. Areca Pakm can be crown in indirect sunlight which works as humidifier and has the capacity to filter xylene and toluene from the air easily. Ficula does not require much sunlight that produce more oxygen and easy to maintain.

Ivy Plant is excellent to remove feces particles and toxins. One Spider Plant is enough for one room filters gasoline, strene, toxins and carbon monoxide. Snake plant produces oxygen even in night photosynthesis. Holy Basil (Tulsi) is an excellent air purifier with number of medicinal values. Why shouldnít we help to make our environment better?

A time-bound initiative is required to address this vital issue. Should India follow Japanese way of changing old cars to avoid heavy taxes thus minimising pollution too. Electric mobility is the future for the world. We ourselves can minimise air pollution not by blaming farmers. Farmers are nation builders. Agricultural scientist should come up with ideas to sort out these issues where the practice of straw stubble burning is still widespread around the country.

Many historians believe the Indus valley civilisation collapsed because of changes to the geography and climate of the area. If things continue, our earth might face disaster for living mankind. On every Diwali and other festival, the smoke from fireworks added to emissions from vehicles as well as stubble fires by farmers around Delhi that have made our world's most polluted capital.

Even controlled burning of Indiaís grassland kingdom Kaziranga is carried out every year by forest department. Air pollution chokes our surroundings. Why India shouldnít put a complete ban on firecrackers when environmentally friendly green crackers available. Or should we take a new look at searching for life beyond earth?


* Kamal Baruah wrote this article for e-pao.net
A freelance writer based in Guwahati. He is a former Air-warrior with IAF and currently working for SBI. Email - kamal(DOT)baruah(AT)yahoo(DOT)com
This article was webcasted on November 25 2019.



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