[Answered] “In recent years, attack on stubble burning has increased due to its contribution to rising air pollution.” In light of this discuss how stubble burning cause air pollution. Suggest some measures to tackle stubble burning menace in India.

Demand of the question
Introduction. Contextual Introduction.
Body. Discuss how stubble burning lead to air pollution? Causes behind stubble burning and its persistence. Suggest some alternative solutions to avoid Stubble Burning.
Conclusion. Way forward.

Stubble burning is a post-harvest practice used to clear fields of paddy crop residue by burning them. This practice mostly carried out in Punjab, Haryana and UP contributes solely to the grave winter pollution in the national capital. For farmers, burning the residue becomes the easiest way of disposing it owing to lack of time, equipments and awareness. But this add up to the already poor air quality in India and is one of the cause of air pollution in India.

How stubble burning lead to air pollution?

  1. Stubble burning, results in emission of harmful gases such as carbon monoxide, N2O, NO2, SO2, CH4 along with particulate matter and hydrocarbons. Each tonne of crop residue on burning releases around 3kg of particulate matter, 60 kg of CO, 1,460 kg of CO2, 199kg of ash and 2kg of SO2.
  2. Also, Crop residue fires in Punjab and Haryana are enhancing concentrations of toxic gases like benzene and toluene, according to research from Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER).
  3. Further, Stubble burning releases toxic pollutants like Volatile organic compound (VOC) in air. Also, it leads to spike in Particulate Matter levels, contributing between 12 and 60% of PM concentrations.
  4. Clouds of ash and smoke containing these harmful pollutants from stubble burning travel more than 1000 kms aided by the Westerly winds coming from the Mediterranean region and create an obstinate and non-clearing clouds.
  5. Smog formed of the smoke increase the levels of pollutants by manifolds in the air leading to poor visibility and causing accidents.

Causes behind stubble burning and its persistence:

  1. Paucity of time forces farmers to burn residue to clear the farms early for preparing them for sowing of wheat in the Rabi season.
  2. Farmers in this region have a traditional belief that burning crop residue will restore nutrients back to the soil.
  3. Mechanisation and employment guarantee schemes like MGNREGA have led to shortage of farm labourers to carry on seasonal migration from UP and Bihar to Punjab and Haryana, as was prevalent earlier. It has become more economical for farmers to burn stubble on field than getting it transported for other uses.
  4. Availability, affordability and awareness regarding crop residue management machines like ‘Happy seeder’ and ‘Super SMS attachment’ is inadequate.

Alternative solutions that can avoid Stubble Burning:

  1. The available paddy straw can be effectively used for power generation, which will go a long way towards overcoming the problem of disposal of crop residues and power deficit in the region.
  2. Suitable machinery for collection, chopping and in situ incorporation of straw is required.
  3. There is great potential for making investments in paddy straw-based power plants which can help avoid stubble burning to a large extent and also create employment opportunities.
  4. Incorporation of crop residues in the soil can improve soil moisture and help activate the growth of soil microorganisms for better plant growth.
  5. New opportunities for industrial use such as extraction of yeast protein can be explored through scientific research.
  6. There is also a need to develop rice varieties that are both rich in grain yield and high in straw quality. Use of such dual-purpose rice varieties will help to maintain food security, farm income and improve environmental sustainability.
  7. There needs to be a proactive engagement to both persuade and reassure farmers.
  8. The greater availability of machines and the zero-tolerance policy need to be seen as works in progress to derive lessons on how to refine the crop-clearing process in an ecologically sound manner.
  9. Promoting indigenous research and science, incentivising pulses production, and rationalising pricing more broadly. Converting crises into opportunities is the hallmark of good public policy.

The 2014 national policy envisages adoption of technical measures, including diversified uses of crop residue, capacity building and training along with formulation of suitable legislation, to deal with the issue of disposing of stubble. Unless Financial assistance is to be provided by the Centre for boosting farm mechanisation, it is difficult to completely stop stubble burning. States needs to make alternative arrangements for consumption of paddy straw into the soil as per the directions of the NGT.

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