The paddy harvest, which begins by the end of this month, has been a major source of pollution in northern India and triggered medical emergencies. This year, the concerns are higher as some studies have suggested that air pollution may be associated with the spread of Covid-19, and may aggravate the symptoms of the disease.
Farm fires in Haryana fell 60% last year, and the target is to eliminate the practice completely this year, said Vijay Singh Dahiya, director general, agriculture department, Haryana.
"This year, there is micro-level planning and we are using satellite data to pinpoint zones where there were increased incidences of crop burning in 2019,” Dahiya said. “The emphasis is to add in more custom hiring centres, give subsidy for machines to farmers and create awareness programs," he said.
In Haryana, 841 custom hiring centres will be added and subsidy will be given to 2,741 individual farmers. Also for management of crop residue by in-situ method, a total of 24,705 machines have been provided.
Sutantar Kumar Airi, director of agriculture in Punjab, said that farm fires have reduced since 2018 when the Centre launched the Rs 1,150-crore scheme to support farmers for machinery, capacity development, knowledge sharing and awareness creation.
"We are going to start distributing machines for post-harvest management of crop stubble. There is an increased level of awareness among farmers and we have received more than 77,000 applications from farmers and custom hiring centres for machines which mix residue back to the soil or make bales of the paddy stubble," he said.
Last year, the government had given 50% to 80% subsidy on 26,000 machines.
Punjab's health department principal secretary, Hussan Lal, said it expects reduction in crop burning this season to a large extent due to farmers going for direct seeding of paddy and increased coverage of subsidised farm machinery to farmers, custom hiring centres and cooperative societies.
"In the current context of the Covid pandemic, it may reduce the disease burden. With pollution levels coming down, the concentration of particulate matter in the air will come down," said Lal.
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