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STUBBLE BURNING

WHY IN NEWS?

  • Recently, alarming rise in pollution comes a day after Diwali festivities, due to the bursting of crackers and cases of stubble burning, turning the city’s air into a health hazard.

WHAT IS STUBBLE BURNING?

  • Stubble (parali) burning is a method of removing paddy crop residues from the field to sow wheat from the last week of September to November.
  • Stubble burning is a process of setting on fire the straw stubble, left after the harvesting of grains, like paddy, wheat, etc.
  • It is usually required in areas that use the combined harvesting method which leaves crop residue behind.
  • Paddy stubble burning is practised mainly in the Indo-Gangetic plains of Punjab, Haryana, and UP to clear the fields for rabi crop sowing.
  • The process of burning farm residue is one of the major causes of air pollution in parts of north India, deteriorating the air quality.

REASONS OF STUBBLE BURNING:

  • The major reason behind the stubble burning is the short time available between rice harvesting and sowing of wheat as delay in sowing wheat affects the wheat crop.
  • When farmers are unable to hire a baler (since owning one can cost up to ₹20 lakh) due to high demand or contact the end user industry, they tend to put fire to their fields.
  • Between the harvesting of the paddy crop and the sowing of the next crop, there is only a two to three weeks’ time window is left.
  • Crop residue burning is practised by the farmers to prepare the land for the next cultivation.
  • Through this method, the remains of crops like straw which remains in the field as residue after harvesting is burned.
  • Therefore, stubble burning is considered one of the cheapest methods to clean the field after the harvesting season.

IMPACTS OF STUBBLE BURNING:

  • Along with vehicular emissions, it affects the Air Quality Index (AQI) in the national capital and NCR.
  • Stubble burning by farmers in Haryana, western Uttar Pradesh and Punjab in north India is considered a major cause of air pollution in Delhi and its adjoining regions.
  • Stubble burning emits toxic pollutants in the atmosphere containing harmful gases like Carbon Monoxide (CO), methane (CH4), carcinogenic polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, volatile organic compounds (VOC).
  • These pollutants disperse in the surroundings and eventually affect air quality and people’s health by forming a thick blanket of smog.
  • Soil becomes less fertile and its nutrients are destroyed when the husk is burned on the ground.
  • Stubble burning generates heat that penetrates into the soil, causing an increase in erosion, loss of useful microbes and moisture.

EFFECT OF STUBBLE BURNING ON NCR REGION:

  • The share of biomass burning in Delhi’s PM2.5 concentration—an indicator of air quality—ranged between 10.4% on 28 October to 35% on 3 November, as per the earth sciences ministry.
  • Other factors which contribute to Delhi’s air pollution include its transport load, construction, peripheral industries and pollution from neighbouring towns.
  • The share of stubble burning may fall with growing use of equipment and higher industrial use.
  • That means Delhi should also start fixing its own internal sources of pollution.

STATUS OF CURRENT STUBBLE BURNING :

  • For years, farmers in Punjab and Haryana have burnt the leftover stubble after mechanically harvesting the paddy crop.
  • They did this due to the short available window between harvesting paddy and planting wheat.
  • The practice contributed to the deteriorating air quality in the national capital region.
  • In the past few years, the Centre and states have been pushing farmers to opt for better solutions.
  • These measures helped to reduce instances of stubble burning.
  • In Punjab, fire events fell from 81,042 in 2016 to 26,341 so far in 2023.
  • In Haryana, the numbers are down from 15,686 in 2016 to 1,857 this year.

SOLUTIONS TAKEN TO PREVENT STUBBLE BURNING:

  • Farmers are given two options to manage stubble.
  • One, they can use smart seeders or straw choppers to ground the stubble into the field and plant the winter wheat without tilling the soil (known as
  • zero till).
  • The more popular option is to use a baler which cuts and collects the straw into neat rectangular bales.
  • These are used as fuel in industrial boilers and biomass-based power plants.
  • Farmers are provided 50-80% subsidy to purchase equipment for straw management.
  • So far, the centre has spent more than ₹3,300 crore as financial support to states to wean farmers away from burning stubble.

WAY FORWARD:

  • Eminent agricultural scientist M.S. Swaminathan has suggested that the Delhi, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh governments could set up ‘Rice Bio Parks’, where farmers could convert stubble into products including paper, cardboard and animal feed.

SYLLABUS: MAINS, GS-3, ENVIRONMENT

SOURCE: LIVEMINT

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