As per a survey by the Delhi government, 2019‘s stubble burning accounted for 44% of the city’s air pollution and that Punjab burnt 9 million tonnes of such stubble in the same year. So what is stubble? How is burning it causing this high level damage to air? Moreover, what measures are being taken to combat it?
Crux of the Matter
What Is Stubble Burning?
It is the practice of purposefully setting fire to the straw stubble or crop residue that remains after grains, like paddy, wheat, etc., have been harvested by farmers.
Why Is It Done?
Burning stubble helps in killing pests like slugs that can cause damage to growing crops and reduces nitrogen tie-up, which causes the growth of yellow wheat. For the farmers, the turnaround time is reduced between harvesting and sowing for the winter crop.
Are There Any Ill-Effects?
Yes. Burning stubble also leads to the emission of greenhouse gases that contributes to global warming, increased levels of particulate matter, leading to air pollution and smog, which in turn cause health hazards. Moreover if done excessively, it also reduces soil fertility and causes fires.
What’s The Link Of Delhi’s Air Quality With This?
Scientists at India Meteorological Department (IMD) report that due to north-westerly winds blowing across Delhi, the smoke from Punjab and Haryana will directly be carried to the city, deteriorating the air quality there.
What Does The Delhi Government Say?
Their data shows that last year’s stubble burning accounted for 44% of the city’s air pollution. Delhi’s environment minister Gopal Rai said that Punjab produced 20 million tonnes of crop stubble out of which 9 million tonnes were burnt last year. In Haryana, 1.23 million tonnes of the 7 million tonnes of stubble were burnt by farmers.
What Does SC Say?
Supreme Court-mandated Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority (EPCA) has written to the chief secretaries of Punjab and Haryana, asking to control these cases. EPCA chief Bhure Lal says it is imperative that early action is taken, in order to control possible fires ahead of the wintertime and the annual pollution spike in Delhi.
What Are The States Doing Now?
Punjab Pollution Control Board (PPCB) has said that monitoring teams are keeping a close watch on violators of stubble burning. Meanwhile Delhi CM, Arvind Kejriwal met scientists at the Indian Agriculture Research Institute (IARI) for a live demonstration of a new machine called Pusa decomposer.
How Will Pusa Decomposer Work?
Made up of a set of 4 tablets, composed of extracted fungi strains, the decomposer will help the stubble decompose at a comparatively faster rate. Farmers can then shred the straw and spray a solution that contains the fungal strains mixed with the soil. It has an estimated cost of ₹20 per acre, which can deal with, up to 5 tonnes of raw straw.
- Slash-and-burn agriculture is a farming method that involves the cutting and burning of plants in a forest or woodland to create a field called a swidden. In India, the practice is known as jhum or jhoom.
- “The Great Green Wall of Aravalli” is a 1,600 km long green ecological corridor along Aravalli range from Gujarat to Delhi. The corridor is meant to act as a buffer against pollution, 51% of which is caused by industrial pollution, 27% by vehicles, 8% by crop burning and 5% by diwali fireworks.
- An air quality index (AQI) is used by government agencies to communicate to the public how polluted the air currently is or how polluted it is forecast to become. Different countries have their own air quality indices, corresponding to different national air quality standards. The National Air Quality Index (AQI) was launched in New Delhi on September 17, 2014, under the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan.