Stubble burning major contributor to Delhi’s deteriorating air quality: CAQM

  • The cabinet secretary has directed the Punjab administration to take effective actions to stop further stubble burning in the remaining days of paddy harvest season

Puja Das
First Published9 Nov 2023
Stubble burning contributed about 38% to the air pollution level on 8 November,
Stubble burning contributed about 38% to the air pollution level on 8 November,(PTI)

New Delhi: Stubble burning is a major contributor to Delhi’s deteriorating air quality, according to the Commission on Air Quality Management (CAQM) data. 

The cabinet secretary has directed the Punjab administration to take effective action to stop further stubble burning in the remaining paddy harvest season.

Stubble burning contributed about 38% to the air pollution level on 8 November, according to the data presented during a meeting chaired by the cabinet secretary on Wednesday.

Delhi’s air quality index (AQI) has remained in the ‘severe’ category, with AQI around 407 at 0710pm today.

As per the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), an AQI between zero and 50 is considered ‘good’, 51 and 100 ‘satisfactory’, 101 and 200 ‘moderate’, 201 and 300 ‘poor’, 301 and 400 ‘very poor’, and 401 and 500 ‘severe’.

From 15 September to 7 November, a total of 22,644 stubble burning events were recorded, out of which 20,978 (93%) were in Punjab and 1,605 (7%) in Haryana. Harvesting is more than 90% complete in Haryana whereas it is 60% complete in Punjab.

Responsibility should be fixed on DCs/DMs, SSPs and SHOs to ensure that there is no further stubble burning, the secretary said.

CAQM has been asked to send out flying squads to Punjab & Haryana and submit daily reports on the incidents of farm fires and the status of enforcement of directions of the Supreme Court by the DCs/SSPs. In this regard, the CPCB has been directed to make necessary manpower available to CAQM.

“The burning of farmland between crop cycles is a pervasive problem across northern India, which has a significant environmental impact and a heavy human cost. One of the many causes of stubble burning is the lack of availability of stubble removal equipment like super-seders and balers at the right time, and the burnt is mostly faced by small and marginal farmers,” said Viral Thakker, partner and sustainability leader, Deloitte India.

The union government has so far released 3,333 crore under the Crop Residue Management (CRM) scheme, of which 1,531 crore was released to Punjab and 1,006 crore to Haryana.

Nearly 1.20 lakh seeder machines are available under the CRM Scheme in Punjab and 76,000 in Haryana. Optimum utilization of these machines could have prevented stubble burning to such a large extent. State governments of Punjab and Haryana were directed to make full use of available seeder machines to prevent further stubble burning, according to a government statement.

Notably, the government of Haryana has been implementing their own incentive scheme for ex-situ management, that is, for procurement of straw from farmers and its transportation, etc. The government of Haryana also informed about an incentive scheme being implemented by them for crop diversification to encourage farmers to shift from paddy to other crops.

The Punjab government should also launch similar schemes and announce them immediately so that stubble burning can be prevented in the remaining part of this year and next year, said the cabinet secretary.

All states were asked to ensure effective implementation of the ex-situ crop residue management scheme in their respective States and achieve full utilization of funds.

Experts recommend a series of other measures to completely stop stubble burning that releases harmful pollutants into the air and can cause respiratory problems, heart disease, and cancer. It can also damage crops and ecosystems.

“The government can ban stubble burning altogether, with strict penalties for violators. Additionally, it can establish stubble management zones in areas where stubble burning is a major problem and give financial incentives to farmers,” suggested Shailendra Singh Rao, founder of Creduce, an Indian knowledge and technology-based service provider in the environment and climate change mitigation domain.

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