Stubble Burning Issue

Stubble Burning Issue and Analysis

Context: New innovative method, the PUSA Decomposer, developed at the Indian Agricultural Research Institute, Pusa can offer a sustainable solution for stubble burning.

What is stubble burning?

  • Stubble burning refers to the practice of farmers setting fire to plant debris that remain in farms after harvest.
  • Stubble burning is practised predominantly by farmers in north India.
  • It is to be noted that, before the 1980s, farmers used to till the remaining debris back into the soil after harvesting the crops manually.

Why farmers resort to stubble burning?

  • Advent of the Green Revolution: It resulted in increased production of rice and wheat which simultaneously increased stubble post-harvest.
  • Mechanised harvesting: Machines used in combined harvesting technique is not efficient as it left behind one-foot-tall stalks.
  • Economic reason: Due to the limited time period of 20-25 days between harvesting one crop and sowing another, Stubble burning offered a low-cost and speedy solution to farmers.

What are the negative impacts of Stubble burning?

  • Source for toxic gases: It releases harmful gases including nitrogen oxide and carbon monoxide into the atmosphere.
  • Air pollution: It creates vast smoke blankets across the Indo-Gangetic Plains. As per TERI (The Energy and Resources Institute) report, in 2019 the air pollution in New Delhi and other parts of north India was 20 times higher than the safe threshold level as prescribed by the World Health Organization.
  • Impact on crop production: It degrades soil fertility, destroys organic fertilizers and reduces ground water levels.
  • Impact on Health: Stubble burning during a pandemic could worsen the situation by making lungs weaker and people more susceptible to disease.

What are the Steps taken to control stubble burning?

Laws & Regulations

  • In 2013, the Punjab government-imposed ban on stubble burning.
  • Later, in 2015, the National Green Tribunal imposed a ban on stubble burning in Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Punjab.
  • Stubble burning is an offence under Section 188 of the Indian Penal Code and the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act of 1981.

Technological intervention

  • To control stubble burning NGT directed government to assist farmers by obtaining equipment like happy seeders and rotavator.

Setting up of independent Commissions

  • Recently, in Aditya Dubey v. Union of India, the Supreme Court appointed a one-man committee under Justice Madan B. Lokur to monitor and provide steps to prevent stubble burning activities in Punjab, Haryana and U.P. Haryana.
  • Presently, a permanent commission for air quality management was set up by the Union government through an ordinance. It will replace the Justice Madan B. Lokur Commission.

What is the way forward?

  • Setting up Custom Hiring Centres: it will facilitate farmers removing stubble by providing them with machinery such as the happy seeder, rotavator, paddy straw chopper, etc.
  • Innovative solutions: For example, the Union government is testing an innovative method, the PUSA Decomposer. It helps the paddy straw to decompose at a much faster rate than usual.

Technological innovations can offer a better solution for problems like stubble burning. The application of happy seeders and super SMS machines along with innovative solutions like PUSA Decomposer will not only reduce air pollution bur also increase soil fertility and agricultural productivity

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