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If farmers burn stubble two hour earlier can reduce it’s affect: Study

Burn stubble; Air pollution is a big problem in India for which many reasons are responsible. Stubble is also one of these reasons.

By Ground report
New Update
NGT calls for action plan on stubble burning in Punjab and Haryana

Air pollution is a big problem in India for which many reasons are responsible. Stubble is also one of these reasons. It has been known that the burning of crop residues in the country is not only deteriorating air quality. But a small scale can reduce air pollution if farmers burned crop residues two hours earlier in the day.

On October 31, 2023, the Supreme Court asked Delhi, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, and Rajasthan to submit affidavits detailing the steps they have taken to control air pollution, as the Air Quality Index (AQI) in Delhi-NCR remained severe.

The onset of winter in the capital region of Delhi and surrounding areas, which is home to over 10 crore people, exacerbates respiratory problems due to severe air pollution. The main contributors to this pollution are disorganized urbanization, a high concentration of industries and vehicles in the capital area, and the burning of crop residue in the north-western states of the country.

The already severe air pollution in Delhi worsens due to weather changes in October-November, such as the withdrawal of the monsoon, reduced wind speed, and cold winds from the Himalayas. These factors cause a decrease in temperature, leading to an increase in air pollution as it accumulates in the atmospheric layer adjacent to the surface instead of dispersing into the upper layers.

Burn stubble

Farmers burn paddy straw due to the paddy-wheat crop rotation introduced during the Green Revolution era (1967-1975), which has ensured national food security and annual exports of about Rs 1 lakh crore for the last five decades. However, this practice has also led to serious groundwater depletion and environmental pollution.

According to a new study conducted by researchers at Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) from 2003 to 2019, researchers found that burning agricultural waste caused between 44,000 and 98,000 premature deaths related to particulate matter exposure annually, of which Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh contribute between 67% and 90%.

Due to a combination of relatively high downwind population density, agricultural production and intensive residue cultivation, just six districts in Punjab contribute to 40% of the annual air quality impacts across India due to the burning of waste.

Burning two hours earlier in Punjab alone could prevent up to 9,600 (95% CI: 8,000–11,000) premature deaths each year, valued at US$3.2 (95% CI: 0.49–7.3) billion. The findings support the use of targeted and potentially low-cost interventions to mitigate crop residue burning in India, pending further research on cost-effectiveness and feasibility.

In search of more effective solutions, a team of researchers from MIT and Harvard University estimated which burning events, in which places, and at what times, produced the largest increases in population exposure, premature deaths, and economic losses in the region. India during the years 2003-09 They then quantified how specific and small-scale actions could reduce air pollution and health risks for the entire population. Their findings appear in the journal Nature Communications.

what is the solution?

Study shows how targeted action on a small scale can reduce air pollution and the health risks that hang over entire populations. According to research that presented solutions to this problem, First, if farmers in Punjab burned crop residues two hours earlier in the day, they could avoid up to 14% of air quality impacts and around 10,000 deaths each year.

They could achieve further reductions by adopting rice varieties such as basmati that require less residue burning. Finally, these targeted actions could achieve most of their benefits if adopted in only a few regions, considering the significant contribution of the aforementioned six districts of Punjab.

Not only this, the lives of about 9,600 people can be saved every year. This means there will be an economic benefit of around Rs 26,205 crore ($320 million).

In this regard, the study's principal investigator and associate scientist at MIT, Sebastian Eastham, says targeted and potentially inexpensive measures may prove important in reducing the health effects of stubble burning.

Along with this, farmers can further reduce this by adopting rice varieties like Bhai Basmati. They require less burning of waste. In such a situation, such targeted actions can be of great benefit. Considering that six districts of Punjab have the major contributions to this, if these measures are taken in some areas, then it can be of great benefit.

Scientists have studied India's 2003-2019 crop residue burning, its location, health impacts, and economic loss. This research used district-level crop production data and the Global Database of Fire Emissions to understand stubble contamination.

"So that we can understand how burning waste in a certain place, at a specific time of the year, has changed the air quality of India."

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