May 22, 2015
PILIBHIT: The Pilibhit Tiger Reserve was in news recently for Union minister Maneka Gandhi venting her ire on a forest guard over the burning of agricultural waste near the forest. While the Pilibhit MP may have faced flak for losing her cool, her concern over the indiscriminate burning of crop residue in the area was not entirely misplaced. The Indian Forest Act strictly prohibits burning waste in the vicinity of the forest but the Pilibhit Tiger Reserve (PTR) seems to be doing precious little to take necessary precautions. For a start, the reserve is yet to classify the burning of agricultural waste in the PTR eco-sensitive zone under the three established categories — prohibited, regulated and permitted. In the absence of clear guidelines and with wheat harvesting complete in almost every part of the district, farmers are clearing their fields for the subsequent paddy cultivation by burning crop remains. PTR officials are yet to impose a prohibition on this activity. DP Singh, the PTR sub-divisional officer, said the matter has not been taken into consideration since the agriculture department is yet to nominate an official to the committee formed to regulate and monitor such activities in the reserve’s eco-sensitive zone — a vast expanse of land spread over 450 square kilometers.
According to an agricultural scientist from Sardar Vallabh bhai Patel University of Agriculture & Technology, Meerut, who is currently posted in Pilibhit, the burning of agricultural waste not only causes pollution, it also poses a threat to the fertility of soil and is also hazardous for human and animal life. According to deputy director, agriculture, AK Singh, the total cultivated crop area in Pilibhit district is 3,94,301 hectares and, in the absence of more scientific alternatives, farmers are bound to adopt the only way they know to clear their fields — burn the crop residue. Singh adds that such fires cause great damage to the region’s flora and fauna and also harm soil-friendly bacteria. Instead of setting the crop residue ablaze, the farmers should concentrate on formation of humus — formed by the decomposition of plants and leaves, which also helps enrich the soil’s fertility — he says. But agricultural scientists in Pilibhit have seemingly failed at spreading awareness. What’s more, many are questioning how serious scientists at the Krishi Vigyan Kendra in Pilibhit are about their role. When the district magistrate Om Narayan Singh made a surprise inspection of the facility a couple of days ago, five of the six scientists were found absent for no valid reason.
As posted in Timesofindia.indiatimes.com