Tuesday, March 31, 2009

burning wheat stumps and a press release from haryana govt.

A press release from the public relations office Haryana caught my eye.
Chandigarh, March 28 - The Deputy Commissioner, Bhiwani has imposed the ban to destroy the remainings of wheat through fire after the harvesting of crops.
The Deputy Commissioner had issued these orders. It had been come into the notice that after the harvesting of crops of wheat some farmers are destroying the remainings of wheat through fire.

By doing so, the farmers were not only helping in degrading the environment, but it was hazardous for the health also. Besides loss of property, such decision creates the scarcity of grass for animals. So, the decision had been taken not to destroy these remaining through fire and ban had been imposed on it.

These orders had been promulgated with immediate effect in the district and would remain effective upto May 15. Those would defy the orders, a case would be registered against them under section of IPC 188 and Environment Control Act, 1981.

This press release i thought it was interesting. Interesting due to the following reasons

* Section 188 IPC is Disobedience to order duly promulgated by public servant
Whoever, knowing that, by an order promulgated by a public servant lawfully empowered to promulgate such order, he is directed to abstain from a certain act, or to take certain order with certain property in his possession or under his management, disobeys such direction,Shall, if such disobedience causes to tender to cause obstruction, annoyance or injury, or risk of obstruction, annoyance of injury, to any persons lawfully employed, be punished with simple imprisonment for a term which may extend to one month or with fine which may extend to two hundred rupees, or with both;And if such disobedience causes or trends to cause danger to human life, health or safety, or causes or tends to cause a riot or affray, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to six months, or with fine which may extend to one thousand rupees, or with both.Explanation-It is not necessary that the offender should intend to produce harm, or contemplate his disobedience as likely to produce harm. It is sufficient that he knows of the order which he disobeys, and that his disobedience produces, or is likely to produce, harm.

* I could not find anything on Environment Control Act, 1981. However there is an Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981 : An Act to provide for the prevention, control and abatement of air pollution, for the establishment, with a view to carrying out the aforesaid purposes, of Boards, for conferring on and assigning to such Boards powers and functions relating thereto and for matters connected therewith.

Some background information

After the wheat has been harvested using a combined harvester what is left are the stumps. This is because the harvester cuts the wheat plant a certain distance above the ground.

One of the ways for removing the stumps is to bring in manual labour, an expensive proposition. The cheapest way for the Haryana farmer is thus to burn the stumps. What farmers across haryana do is to set their fields on fire so that the fire sweeps the fields burning the stumps. The farmers then till the soil.

Burning the stubble allows farmers to quickly plant their next crop and is a good tool for eliminating insects and disease from their fields, which can lead to less herbicide and pesticide use.

Incidentally burning is also practiced by farmers in the USA.

So what does the above press release imply

It has to proved that the farmer burnt the stumps in the field. It is a well-known fact that over 60% of rural Haryana defecates in the fields. It is also a well-known fact that majority of rural men and high number of rural women smoke bidis. So how do you prove that the fire was not due to somebody who has thrown a bidi.

Even if it is proved somebody purposefully burnt the stumps what does he do pay a fine upto rs 200. Nobody, i repeat nobody can be sent to jail as it would require some major political and administrative guts to do that and i don’t believe it is there in Haryana at least.

Yes this imposing of a ban will certainly get some people in the pollution control and agricultural department some extra bucks in their pockets as it would be a good way to harass medium holding farmers.(no big farmer can be touched)

So is it such a lame duck ban. Actually yes, it is more like a media exercise. It is like peeing in your pants. You get a warm feeling and it doesn’t effect anything.

Burning of the fields is an extremely wrong practice which have been adopted by farmers of haryana. A better way is to continuously educate them.

Agricultural burning impacts both local and regional air quality and has been linked to increased asthma and pulmonary infections.


Anonymous said...

We have already done enough harm to the environment…High time we woke up to see the damage we’ve caused.
We may not be able to reduce global warming, end pollution and save endangered species single-handedly, but by choosing to live an earth-friendly lifestyle we can do a lot every day to help achieve those goals.
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Ritumbra Manuvie Blok said...

Dear Mr. Abhay,

I agree with your concerns over another Rule made, which will give another opportunity for corrupt officers for undue enrichment( well executive order in this case). However, agriculture and specially burning fallow lands contribute to 1/3rd of Global carbon emission.

So let us not cry about the righteousness of the order. I am rather happily surprised to be informed from your post that their is an order to effect.

Now coming to the question of how to manage the wheat stumps. One of the very good way is investing the stock into biomass pits for energy generation. Second is decomposing for use as fertilizers.
I have been talking to agricultural department of Edinburgh University, and we are planning to constitute a team for investigation and work in Haryana, precisely on sustainable agriculture. If you feel you can contribute to our team in certain way, please do drop me a word at ritumbra@gmail.com I will look forward for your email and hopefully valuable inputs.

Indian Biodiversity said...

The issue is very important. Instead of burning the wheat stumps, they may seek better and sustainable options like generating energy or to turn them into manure.