It’s that time of the year again!
The air quality of North Indian States begins to deteriorate after the onset of Stubble aka “Parali” Burning in Punjab and Haryana. On Thursday, October 14 the capital Delhi’s Anand Vihar recorded an AQI (air quality index) of 249 which is considered as “very bad” and can cause breathing problems on prolonged exposure amongst the healthy population and severe damage to the lungs especially for the population with the weak respiratory system and heart diseases. According to the reports, the condition is likely to exacerbate within the upcoming 4 weeks as the country proceeds towards the festive season.
Stubble burning is an age-old strategy to clear the paddy fields for the next crop within a short interval of time by burning the straws that are abandoned after harvesting the grains of rice. This technique is practised largely in Punjab and Haryana, one of the largest producers of paddy in India, with an output of approximately 12 million metric tons per year.
The smoke from these States reaches the capital through the winds and contributes to about 1 to 42 per cent of air pollution caused, as stated by Dr Gulati. Not solely Delhi, the other states of North India like Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, and these states themselves smother from the fumes of stubble burning every year.
However, as per the reports revealed by the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS), the cases of stubble burning in Haryana and Punjab are lower this year as compared to the previous years.
The latest records of US AQI published at 8:00 p.m on 14th October of few states are stated below:
- 218 (poor) in Noida of Uttar Pradesh with PM 2.5 as a primary pollutant.
- 167 (moderate) in Ambala of Haryana with PM 10 as a prominent pollutant.
- 173 (moderate) in Bathinda of Punjab with PM 2.5 as a primary pollutant.
The particulate matter or PM 2.5 develops from the burning bushes, smelting processes, combustion from automobiles, etc. They can reach the lower tract of the lungs, causing inflammation in alveoli and bronchioles. Whereas, the particulate matter or PM 10 is made up of dirt, smoke, and pollen grains which causes infection in the upper tract of the respiratory system
The fundamental cause of the Stubble Burning issue
The paddy crop requires a huge amount of water for the irrigation process. Farmers of Punjab and Haryana are provided with free groundwater and unrestricted power supply to generate the surplus amount of paddy to export every year. Currently, the Paddy is grown even in the driest regions of Punjab. These conditions have led to a scarcity of groundwater in Punjab and Haryana.
To encounter the crisis, the respective state governments enacted similar laws known as the Preservation of Subsoil Water Act, 2009 which restricts the farmers from sowing the seeds in April / May (the traditional time of transplantation) but rather growing in Mid-June (during the arrival of the monsoon) that is, a total delay of 6 weeks.
This lag period has resulted in frequent delays in harvesting, which was previously done in September. Now, the rice crop is harvested in Mid-October / November when the winds are stationary in North India.
Furthermore, to prepare the fields for the Rabi crops like Wheat, Barley, and Sunflower and Kharif crops like Sugarcane, and Maize which is planted in winter.
Thus, the farmers are left with no choice but to burn the stubble of paddy, which results in smog build-up in North India during the time of fall.
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