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Stubble Burning

GS Paper 3

Syllabus: Environmental Pollution

Source : The Hindu


Directions: This Article has been taken from the Editorial Section. Go through it once, you can use it for value addition.


Context:  As the monsoon has receded and North India is bracing for a smoggy winter. And with that, the feverish focus on crop stubble burning has returned to India’s public discourse.


Issue of stubble burnings:

  • Root cause: The root cause of stubble burning can be traced back to the 1960s-70s when India introduced several measures as part of its Green Revolution to feed its rising population.
  • Economics of HYV seeds: The economics of high-yielding varieties of paddy and wheat, supported by a guaranteed buyer (the government) and minimum support prices led to a crop duopoly oriented solely around increasing caloric intakes, supplanting the earlier diversity of crops grown in the region.
  • Subsidies: The introduction of subsidies for electricity and fertilizers, and ease of access for credit in agriculture only served to cement this duopoly.
  • Governmental policy: In an attempt to address the growing water crisis, the Punjab and Haryana governments introduced laws around water conservation, encouraging farmers to look to the monsoon rather than groundwater to irrigate their crops.
  • The shortened harvesting season that arose resulting from a not clearly thought-out policy move brought about the need for farmers to rapidly clear their fields between the Kharif and rabi crops;
    • the quickest of these ways was to burn off the remaining stubble post-harvest.


Repercussions of Stubble burning:

  • Pollution: It has led to a deterioration of Air quality in Indo –Gangetic plains, especially in the National capital region.
  • Soil Fertility: Burning husk on the ground destroys the nutrients in the soil, making it less fertile.
  • Heat Penetration: Heat generated by stubble burning penetrates into the soil, leading to the loss of moisture and useful microbes.


Recent steps taken to tackle the above issues:

  • A Series of short-term ex-situ and in-situ solutions have been rolled out by the Union and State governments.
    • In-situ solutions include happy seeders and bio-decomposers, while the ex-situ solutions include collecting and using stubble as fuel in boilers, to produce ethanol, or simply burning away alongside coal in thermal power plants.
  • Economic incentives to reduce burning have also been tested with limited success.
  • The demand for governments to act on this seemingly avoidable practice translated initially into the criminalisation of the act.


Meaningful steps that are needed:

  • Addressing the root cause: e substantially reducing the amount of paddy being grown in the region and replacing it with other crops that are equally high-yielding, in-demand, and agro-ecologically suitable such as cotton, maize, pulses and oil seeds.
  • Building trust with farmers to ensure they are seen as partners (rather than perpetrators) and providing them with the financial support necessary.
  • At a policy level, it also requires recognising that agriculture, nutrition, water, the environment, and the economy are all deeply intertwined in the era of the Anthropocene.
  • Establishing a mechanism for intersectoral policymaking that aligns our goals for sectoral policy within the broad frame of sustainable development we wish to follow.

Fostering the conditions necessary for such a transition is complex. Whether our institutions have the right mix of political will and professional skills to do so remains to be seen.


Insta Links

Prelims link

  • Green revolution
  • HYV Seeds
  • Byproducts of stubble Burning.
  • Happy seeders & Pusa decomposer Smog Towers


Mains Links:

Q. How stubble burning in the states of Punjab and Haryana affects the air quality of Delhi? Discuss.


In the context of WHO Air Quality Guidelines, consider the following statements (UPSC 2022)

1. The 24-hour mean of PM2.5 should not exceed 15 ug/m3 and the annual mean of PM2.5 should not exceed 5 ug/m3.

2. In a year, the highest levels of ozone pollution occur during periods of inclement weather.

3. PM10 can penetrate the lung barrier and enter the bloodstream.

4. Excessive ozone in the air can trigger asthma.

Which of the statements given above is correct?

(a) 1, 3 and 4

(b) 1 and 4 only

(c) 2, 3 and 4

(d) 1 and 2 only


Answer – B


As per the new guidelines recommended air quality levels by WHO (revised after 16 years), the 24-hour mean of PM2.5 should not exceed 15 ug/m3 and the annual mean of PM2.5 should not exceed 5 ug/m3. The highest levels of ozone pollution occur during periods of sunny weather and not during inclement weather. PM 2.5 can penetrate the lung barrier and PM 10 can only lodge inside the lungs. Excessive ozone in the air can cause breathing problems, trigger asthma, reduce lung function and cause lung diseases.


Which of the following are the reasons/factors for exposure to benzene pollution? (UPSC 2020)

1.       Automobile exhaust

2.       Tobacco smoke

3.       Wood burning

4.       Using varnished wooden furniture

5.       Using products made of polyurethane

Select the correct answer using the code given below:


(a) 1, 2 and 3 only

(b) 2 and 4 only

(c) 1, 3 and 4 only

(d) 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5


Answer: D