Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal on Monday urged the Centre to ask the neighbouring states to use a bio-decomposer developed by the Indian Agricultural Research Institute to avoid stubble burning in agricultural fields.

The bio-decomposer is a solution containing seven fungal species and was created by scientists of the institute located in Delhi’s Pusa area.

At a press conference on Monday, Kejriwal said that an audit by a central agency has found the bio-decomposer highly effective.

Last year, the Director of Indian Agricultural Research Institute, Ashok Kumar Singh, had told that the Pusa decomposer breaks down the stubble – so that it doesn’t need to be burnt – while also enriching the soil in the long run. The decomposer was given to farmers on a pilot basis in 2019.

These fungal species in the solution produce enzymes that have the ability to act on the components of paddy straw. The fungal spores are packed in four capsules which are sufficient for one hectare of land, Singh said.

Every year around the months of October and November, farmers in northern states like Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh burn the stubble left from harvesting paddy to prepare the soil for next crop.

Farmers say they only have 10-15 days between harvesting and sowing seeds for the next season and stubble burning is a time-saving and cost-effective method to prepare the soil, according to PTI.

The burning of vast fields in these states, along with the falling temperatures and decreased wind speed, contributes to air pollution in the Indo-Gangetic plains and particularly in the landlocked national capital, Delhi.

The air pollution rises quite high above normal level during the October-November period. An analysis conducted by the Central Pollution Control Board in December had shown that the 30-day average air quality index, or AQI, in November 2020 was 328, which falls in the “very poor” category.

An AQI between zero and 50 is considered “good”, 51 and 100 “satisfactory”, 101 and 200 “moderate”, 201 and 300 “poor”, 301 and 400 “very poor”, and 401 and 500 “severe”.

Delhi had recorded nine “severe” air quality days in November 2020, the maximum number of such days in the month in four years before it.

On Monday, the Delhi chief minister said farmers in 39 villages had used the Pusa bio-decomposer on 1,935 acres of land to convert stubble into manure.

Kejriwal said that a survey by the Delhi government’s Development Department showed that the results were very encouraging.

After this, the Delhi government approached an air quality commission formed by the Centre to recommend the use of the bio-decomposer to other states.

The commission, however, asked the Delhi government to get a survey done by a third party after which it approached the Centre’s Wapcos agency to conduct an audit. The agency is a consultancy firm of the Union Ministry of Jal Shakti.

Kejriwal said that Wapcos spoke to 79 farmers of 15 villages in four districts of Delhi and wrote in its report that the farmers were happy with the bio-decomposer.

Citing the report, he said that 90% of the farmers claimed that the solution turned stubble into manure in 15-20 days. Kejriwal said the use of the bio-decomposer resulted in increasing the content of carbon in the soil by 40%, nitrogen by 24%, fungi by three times and bacteria by seven times.

Wheat sprouting also rose by 17-20% as a result of improved soil fertility, the chief minister said.

“Around 50% of the farmers acknowledged that the use of the bio-decomposer reduced the consumption of Diammonium Phosphate, a fertilizer, from 46 kg per acre to around 40 kg per acre,” he said. “It means farmers had to use less fertilizer and the wheat production increased by 8%.”

Kejriwal said that he would approach Union Environment Minister Bhupender Yadav and seek his intervention for use of the bio-decomposer.

The chief minister also pointed out that the farmers were not responsible for the rise in pollution level. “So far we have targeted farmers [for rise in pollution level],” Kejriwal said. “[But] the faults lies with governments not the farmers. The [state] governments should have provided a solution.”

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