Incidents of stubble burning have come down by over 51% this season so far compared to the corresponding period last year, says the Commission for Air Quality Management (CAQM). Enforcement agencies have inspected 8,575 sites in Punjab, Haryana and NCR districts of Uttar Pradesh and an environmental compensation of around Rs 58 lakh has been imposed for crop residue burning.
The panel, in a statement, said paddy residue burning events in Punjab, Haryana, NCR districts of UP and Rajasthan and Delhi have come down from 43,918 in 2020 to 21,364 in 2021 during the period from September 15 to November 2. The reduction in fire counts is 51.35% in the current year compared to the corresponding period last year. Between October 27 and November 2 this year, only 12,853 farm fires have been recorded as against 23,628 cases in the corresponding period of 2020 – a reduction of 10,775 cases.
In the past, stubble burning has really had a negative impact on air quality in India. The problem of poor air quality, according to The Energy and Resources Institute, is exacerbated in the already disadvantageous landlocked Delhi, where pollutants get trapped. The main reason for paddy (rice crop) stubble burning is the short time available between rice harvesting and sowing of wheat; a delay in sowing wheat adversely affects the wheat crop. The short timeframe available between rice and wheat crops can also be attributed partly to the 2009 Punjab Preservation of Subsoil Act, where paddy transplantation date is fixed for June 20 which pushes ahead the harvesting of rice crop. As a result farmers get less than 20-25 days between two crops, and hence the quickest and easiest solution is to burn the crop residue. It is estimated that 20 million tonnes of rice stubble are produced every year in Punjab, out of which 80% is burnt on the farm.
The Energy and Resources Institute says stubble burning creates a negative externality in the form of emissions, with implications for climate change and health costs to people in affected regions, as well as disruptions in economic activity.
Stubble burning emits fine particular matter (PM2.5), an air pollutant that is a concern for people’s health when levels in the air are high; the particles can get trapped inside the lungs and increase the risk of lung cancer by 36%. Farmers put the stubble on fire to prepare their fields for sowing vegetables.