India's capital is bracing for choking smog in the coming weeks as the crop-burning season begins to heat up. Each year, farmers burn the leftovers of their harvest. And that burning is a major source of the toxic smog that has made New Delhi one of the most polluted cities in the world.
Last year's smog was so bad it prompted the city's chief minister to call New Delhi a gas chamber. But this year was supposed to be different, after Punjab state government tried to stop farmers burning their crop stubble. They offered to pay for 80% of new machines that would instead crush the year's leftovers.
And then told farmers to irrigate the mulch and let it naturally decompose, no burning required. But just this week, farmers were once again burning the fields. They say the government's plan was too expensive and that mulching plants stopped them planting next year's crops in time.>>
> We will take action against the farmers who burn stubble and fine them as environmental compensation.
We can't farm next season.>>
Authorities have also tried to tackle dust kicked up from the city streets and say they'll plant more trees to clean the air. But as the crop burning season looms, government officials have turned to the threat of fines to keep the farmers in line.>>
>> Last week, air quality measurements here registered over three times the healthy level of particles in the air. Meaning, fines or no fines, New Delhi's drive to stop the city's air becoming a toxic soup again this year might be too little, too late.