What is stubble burning?
- Stubble burning is the act of clearing agricultural fields by burning the residue that is left on the land after harvesting, to ready it for the next round of seeding.
- Paddy stubble burning is practiced mainly in the Indo-Gangetic plains of Punjab, Haryana, and UP to clear the fields for rabi crop sowing.
- The period from 15 October to 15 November is when stubble burning instances spike because paddy crops are harvested during this time and the residue left behind needs to be quickly cleared to sow wheat.
- It is one of the major causes of severe air pollution which occurs in Delhi and nearby cities during winters.
Effects of Stubble Burning
- On Air quality: Stubble burning is a significant source of carbon dioxide (CO2), volatile organic compounds (VOCs), nitrogen oxides (NOx) and hydrocarbons (HC) accounting for about 10% of the total emissions in the world deteriorating the air quality.
- On Soil Fertility: Stubble burning affects soil productivity by burning the essential nutrients inside the soil such as Nitrogen, Phosphorus, and Potassium (NPK) as well as other micronutrients.
- It also raises the soil temperature to about 42 °C, thus displacing or killing the important microorganisms in the soil.
- On Climate: Emissions from stubble fires have a direct effect on weather and climate through the release of greenhouse gasses such as carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane (CH4) which may potentially lead to global warming. Eg: About 17% to 32% of the total annual greenhouse gas emissions in the world are contributed by the agricultural sector.
Why in news?
- As the harvesting of paddy (rice) has started in parts of Punjab, the six-month-old incumbent AAP government is all set to face the stiff challenge of dealing with the perennial menace of stubble burning, with farmers indicating that they will continue to burn paddy stubble unless government suitably compensates them for the expenses incurred on alternative methods of disposing crop residue.
- In Punjab, the ban and the action against people burning crop residue are regulated under the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981.
- Farmers of Punjab every year face the challenge of managing nearly 20 million tonnes of paddy straw. It is estimated that over 15 million tonnes of paddy straw is burnt in the open fields to clear the land for sowing wheat or other crops.
- While the paddy harvesting is yet to pick up in Punjab, so far 14 stubble-burning incidents have been reported.
- According to the government data in the year 2021, as many as 71,246 cases of farm fire occurrence were reported in Punjab while in 2019 there were 52,991 such incidents. In 2018, Punjab witnessed 51,766 incidents of stubble fire while in 2017, the farm fire incidents were at 50,845.
- The Punjab government initially said they are considering giving Rs. 2,500 per acre to paddy growers suggesting that the Centre will pay Rs.1,500 per acre while Rs.1,000 per acre will be borne by Punjab and Delhi governments but it was not agreed.
- The general secretary of Bhartiya Kisan Union Ekta demanded that they should be given a bonus of at least Rs.100 per quintal on paddy or paid Rs. 2,500 per acre in connection with the ban on stubble burning.
- The government announced an incentive of Rs.1,500 per acre to farmers going in for the DSR (direct seeding) technique for rice cultivation but so far the farmers are still waiting for the incentive amount.
- On September 16, the Agriculture minister held a meeting with district Agriculture officers to discuss a blueprint to control stubble burning and implementation at the district level.