- Conservation and pollution related issues.
What to study?
For Prelims and Mains: Crop burning- why, concerns, effects on environment and health, their regulation and the need for a comprehensive policy on this.
Context: The Union Ministry of Earth Sciences (MoES) has launched an advanced Air Quality Early Warning System, which can predict places neighbouring Delhi that are likely to burn crop residue on a given day.
- The system has been developed by Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology, Pune, under MoES.
- It uses data of stubble burning incidents from the past 15 years to predict the date and place of the next burning, and help authorities to act in advance.
- Using the data, the Centre for Development of Advanced Computing (C-DAC), under the aegis of the Central Pollution Control Board, creates probability maps to alert government agencies about areas where the chances of stubble burning is going to be high.
- The system can also track pollution load from stubble burning in places neighbouring the national capital, using satellite data. It can predict the air pollution level for next 72 hours. It can also forecast the level of pollutants like particulate matter (PM) 2.5, PM10, and dust, coming from sources other than stubble burning.
- This will help authorities to take preventive steps to control pollution levels as well as mitigate pollution from existing sources.
Every year between October and November, air quality deteriorates in Delhi and its neighbouring states, as farmers burn the residue after harvesting paddy to clear the fields and make way for the sowing of wheat, despite there being a ban on burning agricultural residue. Smoke from Punjab and Haryana travels to Delhi leading to a spike in pollution levels.
What is stubble burning?
Stubble burning is a common practice followed by farmers to prepare fields for sowing of wheat in November as there is little time left between the harvesting of paddy and sowing of wheat.
Impact: Stubble burning results in emission of harmful gases such carbon diaoxide, sulphur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide along with particulate matter.
Why farmers opt for stubble burning?
- They do not have alternativesfor utilising them effectively.
- The farmers are ill-equipped to deal with waste because they cannot afford the new technology that is available to handle the waste material.
- With less income due to crop damage, farmers are likely to be inclined to light up their fields to cut costs and not spend on scientific ways of stubble management.
Advantages of stubble burning:
- It quickly clears the field and is the cheapest alternative.
- Kills weeds, including those resistant to herbicide.
- Kills slugs and other pests.
- Can reduce nitrogen tie-up.
Alternative solutions that can avoid Stubble Burning:
- Promote paddy straw-based power plants. It will also create employment opportunities.
- Incorporation of crop residues in the soil can improve soil moisture and help activate the growth of soil microorganisms for better plant growth.
- Convert the removed residues into enriched organic manure through composting.
- New opportunities for industrial use such as extraction of yeast protein can be explored through scientific research.
Need of the hour:
Unless Financial assistance is to be provided by the Centre for boosting farm mechanisation, it is difficult to completely stop stubble burning.
States needs to make alternative arrangements for consumption of paddy straw into the soil as per the directions of the NGT.
What needs to be done- Supreme Court’s observations?
Incentives could be provided to those who are not burning the stubble and disincentives for those who continue the practice.
The existing Minimum Support Price (MSP) Scheme must be so interpreted as to enable the States concerned to wholly or partly deny the benefit of MSP to those who continue to burn the crop residue.
The Central government should convene a meeting with the States.
Sources: the Hindu.