Delhi Pollution: Stubble burning an essential evil and the curbing alternatives

November 21, 2019 10:58 AM |

Stubble Burning and Delhi Pollution

Delhi is undoubtedly one of the most polluted cities in the world. Pollution is so evident, its visible. Each year Delhi gives a tough competition to every other city of the world to badge first position among the most polluted ones.

One of the major reasons behind Delhi’s deteriorating air besides rising traffic, construction activities and lessening green cover is the stubble burning or burning of crop residues by neighboring states like Punjab and Haryana. Moreover, the period from October to November has become synonymous with hazardous air, people roaming around covered noses.

Regulatory actions against farmers have rarely turned successful till now. The National Green Tribunal (NGT) and State Pollution Control Boards have issued several directions to states to control stubble burning, but without noticeable outcomes.

Below are some responsible solutions to this ever-growing problem of stubble burning suggested by scientists working in this field, environmentalists, farmers’ organizations and agricultural economists.


Looking back into the root of the problem

Earlier, farmers of Punjab and Haryana used to grow three crops in a year. Cultivation of these crops was possible because of plenty shallow groundwater to irrigate the water-guzzling crop even during peak summer. But there has been a steep decline in ground water table in the past some years. This led the government to enact laws to ban early transplanting of paddy in both Punjab and Haryana. As per law, paddy nurseries can only be started from May 10 and transplanting from June 13 in Punjab and from May 15 to June 15 in Haryana.

These fixed dates led to delayed harvest of the crops to October, a time when farmers are supposed to prepare land for wheat. Although tech solutions are available, farmers take the easiest option to clear the fields which is burning the residues or famously called ‘stubble’. Not just this, there are other factors including increased straw production surpassing the demand of fodder, a drastic decline in agricultural labor and increased mechanized harvesting operations using machines.


Are there any alternatives or solutions to stubble burning?

As the existing Preservation of Subsoil Water Act in Punjab and Haryana (prompting farmers to sow crops late) can’t be relaxed because of the already alarmingly depleting ground water, a technological alternative is the need of the hour. Rather, the need of the hour is some technological alternative like Happy seeder, a tractor-mounted machine that sows seeds without the need to till the field or remove existing paddy straw. The remains of rice crop residue act as mulch, conserving soil moisture and improving soil health.

Happy seeder and implements like straw-spreader or straw management system (SMS) have been encouraged by governments with subsidies to farmers. Also, hiring centers have come up in different stations to cut costs for farmers.

Banks should provide capital assistance to farmers.

In addition to this, high-value crops like fruits, vegetables, maize, soybean, sorghum and millet etc., could be replaced in stubble burning areas. A gradual reduction of the paddy cultivation and substitution with other crops (including Basmati) may reduce the environmental footprint.

Alternatives like using paddy straw in thermal power plants, use of stubble in bio-refineries, biomass gasification, etc., can be suggested.

Effective measures taken in time might take down stubble burning cases and possibly make the Delhi air cleaner.

Image Credits – Down to Earth

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