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Delhi’s Air Quality Could Improve 90% If Stubble-Burn In Fields Is Stopped

Mukta Patil,
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A farmer in Chandigarh burning paddy husks after a harvest. Stopping the burning of such stubble could improve air quality in Delhi by 90%, according to a 2016 study.


Farmers outside India’s capital have started to burn the post-harvest straw from their fields, heralding the onset of north India’s toxic-air season. Stopping the burning of such straw, or stubble, and other biomass could improve air quality in Delhi by 90%, according to a 2016 apportionment study by the Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur.


Stubble burning was banned in 2015 by the National Green Tribunal (NGT), India’s apex court on matters concerning the environment.


While the NGT asked Punjab, Haryana, Delhi, Rajasthan & UP to enforce the ban on agriculture crop-residue burning in 2015 (with fines ranging from Rs 2,500 for landowners, with less than two acres, to Rs 15,000 for farmers with over five acres, per incident of crop burning) the burn continues.


Farmers have said that removing stubble from farms is expensive, and not economically viable without state support.


To change that, on October 13, the NGT ordered Punjab, Uttar Pradesh and Haryana to name biomass energy plants and other industries that could use crop residue as fuel and asked these states to ensure farmers got equipment to remove stubble at low or no cost depending on their financial and land owning capacity.


We storified a thread of tweets put out on October 16, 2017, to tell you how the stubble-burn affects the air over Delhi.



(Patil is an analyst with IndiaSpend.)


We welcome feedback. Please write to respond@indiaspend.org. We reserve the right to edit responses for language and grammar.



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  1. Nitin Pandit Reply

    October 17, 2017 at 7:37 pm

    A more fundamental question relates to why these crops and cropping practices still exist in the first place. What nutritional needs do they serve? Why aren’t alternative and diverse crops and systems taking hold?

    As for other sources of air pollution (and impacting others outside), less said the better.

  2. K SHESHU BABU Reply

    October 19, 2017 at 9:38 pm

    The NGT must intensify its efforts on supplying alternative equipment to farmers instead of stubble – burning so that not only Delhi, but also most parts of India will become pollution – free and clean envionment is restored

  3. Vinod Kumar Reply

    November 14, 2017 at 9:53 am

    Stubble burning is a serious issue, and it is one of the major reason behind the increasing pollution in Delhi and NCR region. Inspite of the ban by NGT, stubble burning is happening on a large scale. The government has to take strict action against whoever is responsible for it.

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