Stubble burning

Stubble burning refers to the use of a controlled fire to clear the crop residue that remains in the paddock after harvest and could more accurately be called ‘crop residue burning.

It is mainly carried out in Haryana and Punjab.

Open burning of husk produces harmful smoke that causes pollution. Open burning of husk is of incomplete combustion in nature. Hence large amount of toxic pollutants are emitted in the atmosphere. Pollutants contain harmful gases like Methane, Carbon Monoxide (CO), Volatile organic compound (VOC) and carcinogenic polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons.

Clouds of ash and smoke can travel more than thousand kilometers and create an obstinate and non-clearing clouds. Smog formed of the smoke can increase the levels of pollutants by manifolds in the air, making it difficult to breathe. After release in the atmosphere, these pollutants disperse in the surroundings, may undergo physical and chemical transformation and eventually adversely affect the human health. Frequent husk burning may contribute to the formation of the brown clouds that affects the local air quality, atmospheric visibility and earth climate.

Government response

The National Green Tribunal has fixed the environment penalties at Rs 2,500 per incident for landowners with less than two acres, and Rs 15,000 for those owning over 5 acres, among others.
Punjab recently set up a Paddy Straw Challenge Fund of $1 million for scientists around the world to present technological solutions on crop residue management. Large-scale production of ethanol from paddy straw is also being explored.

Further, the Central government-owned Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Ltd (HPCL) early this year announced the setting up of India’s first second-generation ethanol bio-refinery in Bathinda at a cost of Rs 600 crore.

Alternatives to stubble burning

• Baling can remove the bulk of cut straw from the paddock but it leaves behind weed seeds, can cause soil compaction from the extra vehicle traffic in the paddock, and is only viable if there are reliable markets for the baled straw.
• Burying crop residues by ploughing uses a lot of fossil fuel and is not good for soil quality. Incorporation into the soil surface by lighter tillage is associated with weed problems.

Practice question:

1. Which of the following State/UT has formed Paddy Straw Challenge Fund to control stubble farming?

a) Punjab

b) Haryana

c) Uttar Pradesh

d) Delhi

Ans: a
Exp: Punjab recently set up a Paddy Straw Challenge Fund of $1 million for scientists around the world to present technological solutions on crop residue management.