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Curbing Stubble Burning

What are the reasons for poor air quality?

1. The Air Quality Index (AQI) pointed to rising air pollution in New Delhi, especially during Diwali season.

2. The burning of paddy stubbles in the fields of North India is cited as the major reason.

3. Paddy harvest in Punjab, Haryana and parts of western Uttar Pradesh (UP) aggravate the bad air quality in New Delhi and in the Indo–Gangetic plains.

4. Farmers are penalized, threatened with withdrawals of subsidies, etc. by various agencies including the National Green Tribunal (NGT).

5. While alternative methods like mulching and composting are being tried, stubble burning is predominantly undertaken.

Why do farmers burn the stubble?

1. Clearing the filed in a short span of time after the paddy harvest for next sowing adds to the farmer’s input costs.

2. With very low farm incomes stubble burning is the cheapest and easiest way of clearing the crop fields.

3. The farmers have very little time to clear the fields for sowing the next crop and so they burn the stubble.

Which are the negative effects?

1. Stubble burning has a negative impact on the food system.

2. The nutrients present in stubble are wasted.

3. Farmers have to spend on chemical fertilizers like Urea and DAP to maintain soil quality.

4. Burning increases the soil temperature. So, additional water is needed for irrigation. This ultimately puts pressure on the available groundwater.

How to handle this issue?

1. The society, government, and the private sector need to come together and find a workable solution.

2. The only possible way to manage the huge biomass is to work with farmers

3. A set of machines is suggested to curb stubble burning.

4. For example, Punjab has made available several crop residue management machines at subsidized rates.

5. Machines like happy seeder, chopper, cutter, mulcher, mould board plough, shrub cutter, etc, come attached with super straw management equipment that cut and spread the biomass in the field.

6. But farmers find it uneconomical to buy such machines for using them once a year.

7. Also, the addition of a newer set of machines to manage paddy crop residue will lead to over-mechanization.

8. Moving towards crop diversification and growing crops like maize can help. It does not leave any stubble to be burnt.

9. Policymakers have to put in place a mix of policies required in the short term, medium-term and beyond.

10. While shifting from paddy cultivation may take some time, the immediate focus should be on curtailing stubble burning.

11. The central and state governments should be willing to urgently prioritize the need to stop stubble burning.