How stubble burning became ‘a question of life and death?

• It’s serious: The Supreme Court had some strong words for Punjab and Haryana governments on Wednesday due to their failure to stop stubble burning that's behind the air emergency in Delhi NCR: "Can you permit people to die like this due to pollution? Can you permit the country to go back by 100 years? Why can't government machinery stop stubble burning? You just want to sit in your ivory towers and rule. You are not bothered and are letting people die...”

• Two states: So why is it that only Punjab and Haryana burn so much of farm stubble and why wasn’t this problem of extreme pollution earlier? Here are some reasons:

• Skewed subsidies: Area under paddy cultivation has grown almost three-fold in Punjab and Haryana since 1980, due to government-guaranteed prices. More crop means more stubble.

• Rise of machines: Till the late 1980s, paddy was harvested manually. The stalk was cut close to the ground, which virtually left no stubble. By late 1980s, the process started getting mechanised with use of combine harvesters. The machine cuts the crop at a height leaving 2-foot high stubble on the field. By 1992-93, nearly 9,000 harvesters were in use in India, most of these in Punjab and Haryana. The figure more than doubled in the next 10 years, by when harvesters had taken over in the two states. Farmers began burning the stubble to clear fields.

• Water vs air: Till 2009, pollution from stubble burning was mainly a local problem. That’s because paddy was harvested in September-October, when monsoon is still active and easterly winds dominate, preventing smoke from spreading to Indo-Gangetic plains. In 2009, Punjab enacted a law forbidding paddy transplantation before June 10 to conserve scarce groundwater. This pushed harvests to late October-early November, when northwesterly winds bring pollution towards Delhi NCR and beyond. more  

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The polution in Delhi or neibouring cities is not just because of stubble but because of inorganized burning of garbage collected by local collectors as well as some local govt bodies who just dump it anywhere and then at dusk burn cardboard, nylon bags of flour etc, and other plastic item which cannot be sold to "kabadi walas".
Then there are some fossil fuel operated power plants or other big engines which contribute to this.

Why this is such a big problem in Delhi/NCR where neibouring cities like Meerut, Bulandsahar, and some other do not have it.

It is not just because of stubble but because of open construction, dumping of sand, unorganized construction road maintainence/burnig of tarmac to build road all these factors are entirely overlooked more  
Future is definitely going to be disastrous and no one will remain unaffected because even now we are not considering the REAL MEANING OF POLLUTION IN TRUE SCIENTIFIC TERMS. In SCIENTIFIC EVALUATION RETROSPECTIVE ANALYSIS IS VERY MUCH NEEDED TO IDENTIFY THE CAUSE(S) and REMEDY. more  
All are equally responsible. more  
Punjab and Haryana farmers are desperate in November as immediately after paddy harvesting, they have to sow wheat.
There is no time left to liesurly clear the fields.
There is no cost effective alternative available locally to clear the fields of paddy stubble so that sowing of wheat can take place.
Under the circumstances burning stubble is a feasible solution.
But the winds transport the smoke across north India. more  
This is where businesses and research institutions can join hands in commercializing the extract rather than burning. And public should dump these politicians who do not implement the rules. - simple. more  
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