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Stubble Burning causing the death of our air

Chirag Arora 16th November 2020

Stubble burning in Punjab (Source:Ramesh Singh Yadav)

Stubble Burning is a phenomenon where many farmers simply burn leftover plant debris after harvesting the crop in order to quickly prepare their fields for the next crop. It impacts the northern region of this country and results in being responsible for a large percentage of the air pollution problem.

In October and November every year, Punjab rice farms collectively burn around 7 to 8 million metric tonnes of leftover plant debris. There were multiple fires burning when the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA's Aqua satellite flew over Punjab on October 30, 2014.

In the three weeks between September 21 and October 12, the Punjab Remote Sensing Centre (PRSC), an autonomous government body based in Ludhiana, which has been tracking stubble burning cases in the state since 2014, has already reported 2873 cases of stubble burning in different areas. The PRSC data showed 755 cases in the same timeframe last year and 510 cases in 2018.

Siddharth Singh, an energy and climate policy researcher who is also the author of The Great Smog of India, said according to The Mint, that stubble burning in winter months accounts for 50 per cent of the pollution.

According to Sciencedirect.com, A report estimates that 149.24 million tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2), more than 9 million tonnes of carbon monoxide (CO), 0.25 million tonnes of sulphur oxides (SOX), 1.28 million tonnes of particulate matter and 0.07 million tonnes of black carbon have been emitted by crop residue burning. These contribute directly to air pollution and are also responsible for Delhi's haze and the melting of glaciers in the Himalayas.

Not only is stubble burning one of the highest reasons for air pollution, but it also destroys the chemical balance of the soil and eradicates its fertility.

The National Green Tribunal (NGT) banned the burning of crop residue in the states of Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Punjab on December 10, 2015. Under Section 188 of the IPC and under the 1981 Air and Pollution Control Act, burning crop residue is a felony. However, the government's implementation lacks strength.

The crop stubble if managed correctly, can be economically beneficial for the farmer. The infusion of stubble into the soil, the use of stubble as fuel in power plants, the use of stubble as raw material for the pulp and paper industry or as biomass for the production of biofuels are some of the alternative management methods. It can also be used to manufacture compost and biochar or to create a mix of cement and bricks.

(Source- The Hindu, The Mint, Science Direct, Earth Observatory, Down to Earth)

Edited by: Tanya Jain, Anjali Dinesh

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