Pushpa Gurjal Science City in collaboration with Punjab Pollution Control Board organized a Panel discussion on Sustainability in Agriculture: preventing straw burning on World Environment Day. The day is celebrated each year on 5th June around a theme identified by the United Nations. This year, the theme was “Beat the Air Pollution”. About 293 farmers participated in the event. The burning of paddy and wheat straw in the fields by farmers after combined harvesting of crop has been identified as a major contributor to air pollution in rural areas during the months of September-October and March-April. The issue came into limelight when NASA published satellite pictures of stubble burning in fields in Punjab and Haryana. Since then the National Green Tribunal has passed orders to control the menace and the State Governments have taken several actions to motivate farmers to desist from this practice.
Speaking at this occasion, Dr. Neelima Jerath, Director General, Science City informed that Science City had identified this topic for discussion and deliberation with farmers to fulfill its role as a major science communication facility in northern India. She informed that it is estimated that 40 million tonnes of cereals crops straw, out of which 23 million tonnes is from paddy, is generated in Punjab every year. Out of this burning of one tonne of paddy straw contributes towards release of 3 kg particulate matter, 60 kg CO, 1460 kg CO2, 199 kg ash and 2 kg SO2. This contributes towards greenhouse gases and climate change. PGSC intends to motivate local farmers for voluntary positive action through the panel discussion.
Sh. J.P. S. Bindra, Chief General Manager of NABARD, was the Chief Guest at the occasion. He urged the farmers to use paddy straw as a manure in their fields by using super SMS combined machines. This method is useful for use of straw as mulch and the straw residue is absorbed in the soil which helps to retain essential nutrients. He informed that NABARD was actively working with the Government for funding of such machines. Dr. S. Airi, Director, Agriculture, Punjab, informed about the initiatives of the Government to curb this menace whereas Dr. G.S. Manes, Additional Director Research, PAU shared his views and said that it was necessary to save and utilize paddy straw in an eco-friendly way. The straw could be used for production of fuel briquettes, electricity, making panels and cardboards and as fodder. Sh. Harbir Singh, SE, Punjab Pollution Control Board informed that a large number of people lose their life in road accidents every year due to smog caused by straw burning. National Green Tribunal has imposed a penalty ranging between Rs.2,500/- to Rs.15,000/- to curb this practice of burning straw and also to stop providing subsidy to the farmers who violate the law.The farmers invited by Pushpa Gujral Science City shared their experiences at the occasion. Ms. Rupsy Garg from Kheti Virasat Mission spoke on the need to revert to organic farming. Plantation was done on Dupai Road nearby to Science City.