BACKGROUND OF STUBBLE BURNING?
Stubble burning is a traditional practise adopted by farmers in November to prepare fields for wheat sowing, as little time remains between paddy harvesting and wheat sowing. Stubble burning has been recognised as a key cause of air pollution in Delhi in Punjab and Haryana in northwest India. Each year, farmers mainly in Punjab and Haryana burn an estimated 35 million tonnes of crop waste from their paddy fields in late September and October. Smoke from this burning creates a cloud of contaminants visible from space and has been described as a "toxic cloud," resulting in declarations of air pollution emergency. For this, the NGT (National Green Tribunal) issued a fine of Rs. 2,00,000 on the Government of Delhi for failing to file an action plan providing incentives and infrastructural assistance.
The release of toxic gases such as carbon dioxide, sulphur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, and particulate matter arises from stubble burning.
WHY FARMERS OPT FOR STUBBLE BURNING?
- While farmers are aware that stubble burning is harmful to health, they do not have alternatives to make efficient use of them.
- Farmers are ill-equipped to cope with waste because they are unable to afford the modern equipment available for waste material handling.
- Experts claim that farmers are more likely to be willing to burn the stubble to cut costs and not invest in scientific ways of handling stubble with less income due to crop damage.
WHAT ARE THE ADVANTAGES OF STUBBLE BURNING?
- It clears the field easily and is the cheapest option.
- It destroys weeds, including herbicide-resistant weeds.
- Slugs and other rodents are destroyed.
- The nitrogen tie-up can be minimised.
WHAT ARE THE ISSUES PERTAINING TO STUBBLE BURNING?
- l The Pollution: Vast quantities of toxic contaminants containing hazardous gases such as methane (CH4), carbon monoxide ( CO), volatile organic compounds ( VOC), and carcinogenic polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons are released by open stubble burning throughout the atmosphere.
- l These contaminants disperse in the environment after release into the atmosphere, can undergo a physical and chemical transformation, and eventually adversely affect human health by creating a dense blanket of smog.
- l Soil Fertility: The nutrients in the soil are depleted by the burning husk on the ground, rendering it less fertile.
- l Penetration of heat: heat produced by the burning of stubble penetrates the soil, leading to moisture loss and useful microbes.
WHAT ARE THEALTERNATIVE SOLUTIONS THAT CAN AVOID STUBBLE BURNING?
- There is a great opportunity to make investments in paddy straw-based power plants that can help to a large extent prevent stubble burning and also generate employment opportunities.
- The incorporation of soil crop residues will increase soil moisture and help activate soil microorganism growth to improve plant growth.
- Convert the extracted residues by composting into enriched organic manure.
- Scientific research will explore new possibilities for industrial use, such as yeast protein extraction.
WHAT ARE SUPREME COURT’S OBSERVATIONS ON THE ISSUES PERTAINING TO STUBBLE BURNING?
- All practicable steps for the benefit of public health and environmental protection must be taken to address the issue.
- Rewards could be given to those who do not burn the stubble and disincentives will be given For those who continue the practise.
- The current Minimum Support Price (MSP) scheme must be interpreted in such a way as to allow the States concerned to refuse, in whole or in part, the profit of MSP to those who continue to burn the residue of the crop.
- The Union Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers' Welfare Secretary was also directed to "find a permanent solution."
- A conference with the States should be convened by the Central Government.