How is stubble burning responsible for toxic air pollution in the NCR region?

Air Pollution is a massive problem in India. Every winter in the NCR Region, pollution levels become Toxic. And it’s all to a Farming practice known as Stubble Burning. When you grow crops such as rice or wheat, many stubble, residue, and weeds are left behind in the field after the harvest.

In September and October, Farmers are pleased because their crops are leaving farms or fields and going to the Mandis. But there’s still a residue and stubble left from the previous harvest, and they have a tiny window of time to grow the next of crops because winter is also soon approaching.

So what they do is, to get rid of all the extra residue or extra stubble, they burn it to the ground. And, This is not a great idea because air pollution levels are going to increase. After all, things are being burnt. So what is the better practice that farmers can follow to avoid this? Well, there is something called ‘Stubble Management.’

Stubble Management uses Machines/ Techniques. These Machines are generally expensive for farmers. So the govt Has been offering these machines at a subsidized cost. And, This works when times are good. When times are bad, it is difficult for the state government to have enough have funds to roll out these subsidies and give these machines that will help stubble management happen for these farmers.

So this is what has happened. This year because things have not been too great, the number of Farm fires has gone up by 40%. So is there a more long-lasting approach that will avoid stubble burning? And the answer is Yes. Perhaps if we didn’t produce as much stubble, to begin with, or grew crops that didn’t have as much stubble, things would be a lot better.

Punjab and Haryana didn’t even produce that much rice until the Green Revolution. It was only after the green revolution that they realized that growing rice would give them profits. And there was also encouragement from the govt.

The government gave them subsidies and gave them a minimum support price, which is like an assurance of profits for these farmers if they only produced rice. After we are overproducing rice and wheat, if the government incentivizes other crops that don’t have as much stubble as rice and wheat, things would be a lot better. There would be lesser stubble. Hence there would be more secondary stubble burning, and our air quality would increase.

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