An Environment Crusader's Fight To Make Punjab A 100% Fire Free Crop Producer

Recently, legendary singer Bryan Adams performed in New Delhi. He was stunned by Delhi's October smog. Bryan put up an Instagram post of his silhouette reflected against a backdrop of thick smog. "In this photo, if you look carefully you can see my shadow silhouetted in the dust and smoke of the venue over the audience," Adams said. "I've never seen that before."

Though it hasn't come as a surprise to the North Indians, because every year during the months of October and November one can see  spike in the levels of particulate matter (PM), making air extremely unfit to breathe and it can lead to respiratory problems. The main reason behind this spike is crop stubble burning in that region.

Even Satellite images from the US space agency NASA shows thick smog enveloping northern part of India. All of this is attributed to stubble burning, in Punjab and Haryana, which has begun earlier this month. But if the pictures posted by NASA are to go by, it shows that the situation is comparatively better than last year. There has been a decline in stubble burning in this part of the region. This has been possible because of few farmers like Gurbachan Singh from Tarn Taran.

The red dots you see in the images below all suggest places where stubble burning may have taken place at any given time.

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 Gurbachan Singh, who watched the environment deteriorate, as thick-layered smog would cover Booh Havelian village in Tarn Taran, Punjab to such an extent that they had to stop sending their children to school. When it rained, the fields were all full of black mud and a thick layer of soot would envelope the farming machines and equipment.   

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That is when, almost two decades ago, long before stubble burning was recognized as one of the prime causes of the smog that blankets Punjab, Haryana and Delhi in October and November. Gurbachan (57) along with his brother Gurdev in Burj Deva Singh village, stopped burning paddy stubble in their 40 acres land. They began with a zero tillage machine, which involved a lot of labour and continued with it till 2007 when they switched to new technology — Happy Seeder. A Happy Seeder is used to sow wheat without clearing the stubble.

The Krishi Vigyan Kendra (KVK) who acts as a link between the Indian Council of Agricultural Research and farmers in order to apply agricultural research that is practical and environment-friendly, chose two Punjab villages for their pet project i.e. to make them 100% fire -free crop. Both the villages — Booh Havelian and Jauneke — have been pretty notorious when it came to stubble burning in 2017. "Of a total 1,400 acres in both villages, farmers burnt stubble in more than 1,200 acres last year," says Balwinder Kumar, Krishi Vigyan Kendra district official.

bsrrulug6ttcxnf4bqansnxtjnaddexg.jpgHappy Seeder

Gurubachan with his no-stubble-burning policy, soon became the poster boy and spokesman of KVK. They had him address at least three training camps for farmers and all of them were well attended.  He presented his own farm as an example of how after stopping stubble burning the soil quality of his field has improved to such an extent that he has completely stopped using fertilizers and insecticide. "Farming without crop burning each year phases out urea by half a bag and that three bags of urea per acre are used on fields set on fire before sowing." He said in an interview with Indian Express. He also points out that the farmers would be able to save money on fertilizers, insecticides and yet have a good yield only if they abstained from burning stubbles.

As Balwinder Kumar said, “Kisaan nu kisaan di gal jaldi samajh aundi hai" (A farmer understands a farmer better). Gurubachan managed to persuade at least 40 farmers in the village to put crop residue to good use, instead of burning it, in the fields.  

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Not only that, this environment crusader, performed a non-wasteful wedding of his son last year, by asking bride’s parents that there would be no baraat as he did not want to impose huge cost of entertaining groom’s side on them. Along with that he even managed to get a promise from the bride's father, Satnam Singh that he had to stop burning paddy stubble, to which Satnam readily agreed.

Gurbachan’s daughter who is about to get married this year, his gift to his son-in-law — a Happy Seeder. It's heartwarming to see how conscious efforts to save the environment is no longer limited to the drawing rooms of the educated but even villagers have become an equal participant in this movement. More power to farmers like Gurubachan.

Photo Source: IndiaToday; Indian Express; The Hindu Business Line; Tribune India

Cover Image for representation purpose only

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