Industry is the first to be blamed for pollution. However, in Punjab, which has only a modest industrial base, a major part of the total pollution comes from agriculture.
The Green Revolution, with its concept of heavy use of fertilisers, pesticides, and other chemicals, has caused a serious imbalance in the environment. To raise levels of production, farmers often indulge in injudicious use of such inputs, the use of which in the state is almost double the national average.
The spray of pesticides on crops has hit hard the population of common birds and wild animals, such as peacock, sparrow and fox.
Traces of pesticide are also found in humans, especially in southern Punjab, which is more affected by this menace.
Food grains are also affected. Presence of uranium beyond the acceptable limit has been found in subsoil water. There is a strong suspicion that the presence of toxic substances in the subsoil water is responsible for the high incidence of cancer, especially in the Malwa belt.
However, there has been no sustained effort on the part of the state government to educate farmers on judicious use of chemicals.
Besides chemicals, burning of paddy stubble in the farms is another major source of air pollution. Every year, about 20 million tonne of paddy residue is left behind after the crop is harvested. Of this, only about 1 million tonne is used as fuel in “co-generation” plants to produce electricity. The remaining is set on fire by farmers during October-November, triggering breathing problems in a large section of the population.
A few months back, the Punjab Pollution Control Board forwarded a draft for a Bill to ban the burning of paddy residue.
However, there has been no response to it from the government, which fears a negative response from the farming community. Many experts say this fear is unfounded.