Hafta Letters: On Air pollution
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Hafta Letters: On Air pollution

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By NL Team

Published on :

Dear Newslaundry Hafta team,

Greetings from a ‘Delhi air in October’ survivor (I say we get the government to start a mini-version of the Bharat Ratna for all survivors of bad environment, to be funded by companies contributing to pollution).

I’m writing about the Delhi/ North India air quality crisis. As most of us are pressuring different state governments to push to get the farmers to stop burning the stubble, it is worth thinking why farmers started burning their stubble only in the last 4-5 years. Shekhar Gupta has a really interesting take on this  but here is the gist:

A very heavy water-consuming rice/ paddy crop is cultivated in the north (of which we produce an excess). With acute water shortage, the farming cycle has shifted a little beyond peak summer to adjust the requirements for groundwater. And that leads to a short, ill-timed crop change period in end October- early November when the winds are inactive, stubble is burnt, and Delhi suffers a burning sensation in their chest!

And Punjab and Haryana are defending the water-saving methodology

But the other solution might just be shifting the crop to a part of the country that has more water, and moving a less water-requiring crop like maize to Punjab (also, the government can bring in maize and some of these crops under the MSP program, incentivising farmers to grow them.) Isn’t that the advantage of having a large country, with diverse ecosystems?

That being said, one has to acknowledge that farmers are neither the biggest contributors to the overall pollution nor should they be burdened with taking care of it. I still think the largest polluting companies should be burdened with building the infrastructure for waste management, and pollution control measures. Average citizens shouldn’t have to pay to clean the Ganga, if we aren’t polluting it (maybe the common man littering or dirtying a river should ACTUALLY be fined, but I don’t want to pay to clean the Ganga when I’m going out for a drink!)

Another point of view that some activists like Vandana Shiva hold is a conspiracy by companies like Monsanto to change the crop being sown (but I think she is being a little too paranoid about capitalists)

Looking forward to your thoughts on this, and maybe even an expert discussing this.

Warm regards,

Priyanshi Saxena