This article deals with ‘Stubble Burning – UPSC.’ This is part of our series on ‘Environment’ which is an important pillar of the GS-3 syllabus. For more articles on Environment, you can click here.
Why do farmers burn stubble?
- Time Factor / Cropping Pattern: The paddy wheat system leaves farmers with a sowing time of less than a month between the two crops. Delay in sowing means a decline in yield.
- Government Policies: Punjab & Haryana directed their farmers to delay paddy transplantation to save groundwater, but now when they harvest rice, there is no time to grow wheat.
- Cost Factor: Straw management equipment is costly, and the government doesn’t consider the cost of stubble management while deciding on MSP.
- Farm Mechanization: Earlier, farmers used to cut the paddy close to the ground, and the issue of stubble wasn’t there. But the harvesters cut the paddy from height and leave behind one-foot-tall stalks.
Side Topic: Stubble burning leads to the formation of Smog in Delhi because
The concentration of PM 2.5 particles increases in the air due to stubble burning, which provides condensation nuclei for smog formation.
Problems caused by Stubble Burning
- Bad for soil health: Burning leads to a decline in the bacterial and fungal population in the top 2.5cm of the soil, thus decreasing the soil fertility and increasing farmers’ dependence on fertilizers.
- Health Impacts: Stubble burning releases air pollutants, especially particulate matter (PM), CO2 and ash.
- It impacts the health of the general population, especially pulmonary disorders.
- Increase the cost of agriculture: According to research conducted by ICRISAT, the nutrient loss from soil caused by stubble burning in Punjab amounts to 220 crores worth of urea.
Carrot & Stick Approach is required
- MS Swaminathan suggested commercializing the paddy straw by using it for making cardboards, animal feed, paper, energy generation etc.
- Government should subsidize farm machinery for stubble management, such as Happy Seeder, Rotavator etc.
- Economic Survey (2020) suggests setting up Biomass Depots for storing crop residues and making Biochar Briquettes out of them, which can be further used in thermal power plants and coal or as fuel in local industries and brick kilns.
- Provide market to farmers to produce electricity from Biomass. For this, Punjab has operationalized the first such powerplant Jalkheri Biomass Powerplant (Patiala District).
- Encourage Farmers to change cropping patterns: Government should also procure pulses and oilseeds at MSP.
- Fine those farmers who burn the straw even after that.
- Authorities in Punjab plan to use satellite technology to keep a vigil on illegal burning.
Steps already taken by the Government
1. Subsidy for buying In-Situ Crop Residue Management Technologies (like Happy Seeder)
The government is giving 50% subsidy to the individual farmers and 80% subsidy to Cooperative Societies to buy In-Situ Crop Residue Management technologies. These technologies include
|Happy Seeder||With Happy Seeder, the next crop can be sown in the standing stubble.|
|Rotavator||Prepare the land for the next crop by incorporating the stubble into the soil.|
|Baler||Make the bales of stubble|
2. PUSA Decomposer
- PUSA Decomposer is a set of 4 tablets developed by the Indian Agricultural Research Institute, Pusa. The tablets contain the fungi strains, which increase the rate of decomposition of paddy straw.
3. Project to convert Paddy Straw into Bio-Energy
- Punjab Government has signed an MoU with Chennai based company ‘NEWAY‘ under which 400 Plants for converting paddy straw to electricity will be constructed.
4. Making stubble burning a punishable offence
- Stubble burning has been made a punishable offence under Section 188 of IPC and Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act of 1981.