No hands were raised when asked of non-smokers in Delhi!

Delhi has become a gas chamber. Each day we smoke 45 cigarettes. It could have benefitted me in at least one way. Every day, I could have gone on my terrace, smoke a literal cigarette, come downstairs, answer my mom’s question about my whereabout honestly-“I went upstairs to smoke”. She would have been the coolest mom ever since zero visibility. Such an urge of doing something wrong.

Well, I am not the only one with such criminal tendency. We Indians, either take pride while indulging in immorality or we don’t even know that we are doing wrong.Consider the Odd-Even Policy of AAP Government. How many of us actually tried to comprehend the motive of the policy? Everybody is buying another vehicle to complement the number plate of their old vehicle just to abscond at the ‘eleventh hour’.

Talking about the reverse psychology, let’s take the example of the Supreme Court order of ban on selling firecrackers. Even if they did not burn crackers in past few years, this Diwali they have either to flaunt their approach of procuring them or to show that the order was a threat to Hinduism.

The central government has INDCs (India’s Nationally Determined Contributions) in which it has pledged to sequester 3 billion tonnes of CO2 by 2030 through enhanced tree cover. Also, in 2015, India committed to Bonn Challenge to place into restoration 13 million hectares of degraded land by 2020 and additional 8 million hectares by 2030.

Both of these commitments reflects the spirit of India’s policy framework on forests i.e. Landscape Approach (a model aimed at improving the ecology of a landscape as a whole in order to benefit local livelihoods by multiple ecosystem services like food security, climate mitigation and adaptation, conservation of biological diversity and water supplies).

Although the states are working to achieve the target of 28-34 million hectares, there is an over-reliance on plantations rather on landscape approach. Large-scale Plantation Drives don’t lay stress on species selection. Neither the quality of planting materials or survival rates are considered nor they recognise the tenure and resource rights to ensure that the benefits flow to communities. Thus, they don’t really achieve the goals.

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Tree-Based Interventions should be inculcated in India to mitigate air pollution and achieve climate convention’s goals as happened in many other countries.One good example is Agro-forestry which would also help farmer diversify his income and increase land productivity.

FMNR(Farmer Managed Natural Regeneration) is also a solution where farmers protect, manage the growth of trees/shrubs that regenerate naturally in their fields from rootstock or farm seed dispersed through animal manure. Niger, West Africa has added 200 million on-farm trees using FMNR in 30 years, thus sequestering 30 million tonnes of carbon and increasing annual agricultural production by 500,000 tonnes. Security of tenure, land rights and right to use the products of these trees is the key to the success of such interventions as seen in Brazil.NABARD’s Wadi Model is an example of tree-based intervention in India.

Stubble Burning is one of the major causes of the smog crisis in Delhi-NCR. Farmers are burning the paddy residue to sow wheat in the fields. Due to high silica content, it cant be used as animal fodder like wheat straw. Instead of blaming farmers completely, the state governments should find a way out.

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Effective tools like Happy Seeders fitted with Super Straw Management System for directly sowing of wheat after paddy harvesting should be subsidised at a price feasible to farmers. Other existing machines like cutter-cum-spreaders(mulchers) and reversible plough also manage paddy straw for wheat sowing.Another option for farmers is the adoption of early maturing varieties of rice which will save water in addition to stubble management.But for that farmers should be made aware of how wheat can be sown without burning paddy straw through Krishi Vigyan Kendras.

The most important role the governments has to play is of monitoring. Whether there is the right type of tree-based intervention via scientific evidence, whether the straw management system working transparently and whether people are adopting carpooling and abiding by the odd-even policy.

We, as commoners cannot turn a blind eye to the blurriness of the building opposite to ours. Instead of criticising the government and hiding under the N95 mask, we should abide by the rules to save the planet and people who cannot afford the masks and thus a particulate matter free breathe!