Saturday, May 17, 2008

Blazing Punjab: Flaming Fields

Blazing Punjab: Flaming Fields

Burning of Crop residue – Need of Civilizational Intervention

By Umendra Dutt

Every day I pass through villages and see fires in the just harvested fields. An absolutely avoidable ecological destruction and
environmental violence is going on at the hands of brainwashed farmers.
The trees, the earth friendly creatures, the micro organisms are getting destroyed for no rhyme or reason. Farmers are burning the wheat stalks just in order to save a few hundred rupees, time .This dangerous practice is bound to play havoc in a few years and these shortsighted misadventures are going to extract a huge price in terms of money, time, environmental health, ecosystem and natural resources.
Countless innocent, man and crop friendly living forms are being criminalised. These living forms actually rejuvenate and energise our soil, our mother earth.

Punjab is burning, really. A very painful scene we are witnessing every day around us. Madness, a mass psychosis of people unconcerned with the results of their own misdeed is happening around us, which is terribly upsetting. It is reminiscent of ‘thousand fires in Rome’, but at the end of those, Nero added another page in human history. But what are we achieving here with these unnecessary fires in our fields? We are burning Wheat crop residue in more then 5500 Sq KMs and 12685 Sq KMs in Rice crop residues and according to a study based on satellite data, the Emission Factors (EFs) for wheat residue burning as estimated CO- 34.66g/Kg , NOx – 2.63g/Kg, CH4 – 0.41g/Km , PM10 – 3.99g/Kg, PM2.5 – 3.76g/Kg .

These large-scale burning, releases trace gases, along with sub micron-sized aerosols, which are known to aggravate lung and respiratory diseases. And we address earth as Dharti Ma.

Burning of the crop residue not only adds to atmospheric pollution and emission of green house gases but also leads to loss of rich renewable soil rejuvenating organic resources. It gives me an uneasy feeling about our society, its contemporary character and it also indicates a kind of shallowness of my society. It is so disturbing that I questions my own self. We have to pose this question to ourselves and to the so called experts as to why this seasonal burning at all?

Who is to blame? Are our farmers responsible? What is the reason for this? Why our society is behaving like this? Are the changing life styles also contributing in this indifferent attitude of our society? Why our social scientists are indifferently quiet on this burning issue?

Is it simple that farmers are burning up crop straw to save few hundred rupees only? Despite knowing the adverse effects of this devastating practice? Why the farmers are intent to burn stubble?

Then some more questions also need to have answers. Where is the solution? Can technology provide solution? Is it due to lack of technology and its application or adoption only? I think it is the unmindfull application of technology that is responsible for this crisis. Because technology doesn’t come in isolation, it carries a cultural imprint with itself along with a carbon footprint. Then, there is physiological baggage also. Any new technology we adopt, it impacts our way of thinking, our analysis, our perceptions and our relations with surroundings – the nature and the mankind.

We had propagated various new technologies in course of modern development and Green revolution. Our experts are proud of these new technologies; they are very fond of talking about its adoption rate, success rate and other benefits. We had started evaluating every thing mechanically in narrow terms of profitability. The green revolution agricultural paradigm has also displaced our value systems from agriculture; it has destroyed the very basic civilizational element in our convoluted agriculture vision.

When there is no moral code, no values, no beliefs, no ethics then certainly there will be no compassion at all, no feeling on oneness with our surroundings. Then the whole earth is supposed to be for our self-indulgence only, and the farm is only a piece of land, a mere area, which is owned by me, I am the owner of that , so it depends on me only - What I do to that land. I want maximum profits out of it, because I have to address my lust of money.

I was told by the experts to put poisons in my land to kill pests, they told me it is the development. I was taught by the experts and highly civilized persons that I should use machines – Harvester Combine to minimize my expenditure on human labour, as labour is a problem. Then one agriculture economist teaches me lessons of profitability – economic viability – and I was told that now I am a progressive farmer. When I was made totally self-centered unconcerned of my surroundings, my ecology, sustainability of life. Then this agriculture establishment celebrated my progress. They told me it is the way of life now; this is the new path of development. There is euphoria all around and no body has time to talk about my interdependence on Nature. New machines, technologies and new definitions have taken place of the wisdom I got from my ancestors.

The burning of crop residue should not be seen in isolation, we have to take a holistic picture. It is not a problem in itself… it a symptom of deep-rooted civilizational crisis of our society and our age. We have to address the crisis on much wider canvass.

Mankind is behaving like this towards every natural thing – wether it is water, air, trees, forests, animals, the mechanized mind and self-seeking way of life has made our whole society insensitive to nature. The crisis mitigation does not lie in technological interventions only. The agriculture expert mind- set and solutions suggested by it has already ruined our ecology and our agricultural heritage. Now we cannot ask them to suggest solutions. Those who were worshiped for more then four decades for their expertise now should not be asked for solutions, because they can provide another technological answer and mere technology is not a complete solution at all.

There are still thousands of farmers who have no rotavator or Happy-seeder but they are not burning the stubble. Agriculture implements are only tools to be used; the real answer is in our mindset, the vision and feeling of a relationship with Earth, other forms of life and whole ecology.

While NFL at Bathinda produces 5 lakh tons of urea which gives near about 2.5 lakh tons of nitrogen with lots of energy consumption, water consumption and environmental pollution, so one fifth of the total production of nitrogen is burned due to inefficient management systems put forth by the government.

Farmers burn 196 lakh MTs of straw every year, worth crores of rupees, besides losing 38.5 lakh MTs of organic carbon, 59,000 MTs of nitrogen, 2,000 MTs of phosphorous and 34,000 MTs of potassium every year. If government feels that this should be saved, it should take up a large campaign, asking farmers to use the straw as mulch, spread with Jeevaamrita kind of solutions. If it involves additional costs for the farmers, government should pay for it.

Several farmers associated with Kheti Virasat Mission who are practicing natural farming, have already adopted Jeevaamrita to mulch stubble in their farms. They are not into burning madness, not because of technology but due to their conviction. Off course farmer needs some methods to mulch all crop straw. Jeevaamrita provides appropriate solution.

We should develop a strong campaign asking Govt to initiate a process of asking people to adopt straw mulching; this would automatically lead to promotion of natural farming once we get space in the campaign. The prerequisite of the solution is a civilizational intervention to re-establish mother–son relation of farmer with Earth. We have to redefine the meaning of development, progressive farmer, profitability and sustainability. We have to evolve a new idiom to evaluate our contemporary ecological crisis.

The whole society and particularly the elite and experts must take the responsibility of their transgression; farmers are expressing the same what the society has taught them. This burning of stubble is the natural outcome of the economic and agriculture model we are pursuing from last fifty years. It is the result of a paradigm we had chosen, propagated by the experts of those times.

Let whole Punjabi society accept its role in this misadventure. This is the only one dimension of whole ecological-civilizational crisis that our society is facing and which will certainly affect lives of our future generations. We have to change Collective Mindset of our society and this can be only being done through a process for new model of development.

Let us start this voyage to build our own developmental paradigm to come out this self inflicting devastation.

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