The haze and smoke over Delhi has become an annual occurrence during the months of October and November. The current situation has resulted in a temporary halt to construction activities as well as the movement of trucks and diesel four-wheelers that do not meet BS-VI standards.
GS Paper 3: Environment protection
What exactly is smog? Analyze the causes of Delhi’s poor Air Quality Index levels and propose solutions to improve them. (250 words)
Why do farmers choose Stubble Burning?
- Farmers generally burn rice and wheat straws left in the field after combine harvesting to facilitate seed bed preparation and seeding.
- Farmers prefer this method for crop residue management because it is quick and inexpensive compared to other methods.
- Because farming input costs are increasing on a daily basis, farmers are hesitant to invest in crop residue management equipment.
- Happy Seeder (a tractor-powered machine for in-field management of paddy stubble) remains an expensive option for the majority of farmers.
Areas where this practise is widespread
- Agricultural residue is burned on a large scale in states like Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, and the National Capital Region of Delhi.
- This is also prevalent in other states. This includes states such as Bihar, Odisha, and West Bengal.
The government’s efforts to address this issue
- Photographed by Centre
- A Central Sector Scheme on ‘Promotion of Agricultural Mechanisation for In-Situ Crop Residue Management in the States of Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, and the National Capital Territory of Delhi’ was approved.
- Farmers receive financial assistance of 50% of the cost of machinery/equipment for the purchase of such machinery.
- The Centre has heavily subsidised various agricultural machines over the last three years.
- Farmers share the profits from the leftover biomass.
- Adopted by state governments and other organisations
- State governments and other organisations are educating farmers on healthier farming practises.
- The Punjab government recently decided to provide incentives to industries that install paddy-straw-fired boilers.
- It also decided to provide non-financial incentives to these industries in the form of Panchayat land available for storage of paddy straw with a lease agreement of up to 33 years.
- Pusa Decomposer
- A bio-enzyme created by the Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI) to decompose crop residue.
- It decomposes stubble in 20-25 days and converts it to manure, improving soil quality.
- It is also cost effective. One packet of four capsules costs Rs 20 and yields 25 litres of solution suitable for one hectare.
The Way Forward
- Development of markets for crop residue-based briquettes (a compressed block of combustible biomass material)
- Mandatory co-firing of crop residues with coal at nearby thermal power plants
- A special credit line for financing farm equipment and working capital for private sector participation should be established.
- Alternative beneficial uses for crop residues should be encouraged.
- Examples include composting, bioenergy production, biochar production, and use in the pulp and paper industry.
- Converting crop residues and food/plant wastes into biofuel has enormous potential. The government should begin incentivizing industries that produce biofuels.
- The haze and smoke over Delhi have prompted a temporary halt to construction activities as well as the movement of trucks and diesel four-wheelers that do not meet BS-VI standards.
- A petition concerning agricultural stubble burning in the northern states will be heard by the Supreme Court.
- The primary cause of Delhi-extremely NCR’s poor air quality is attributed to stubble burning.
Pollutants that cause pollution
- Agricultural waste burning
- At this time of year, the burning of agricultural waste in Punjab and Haryana is the primary cause of smoke and haze over Delhi.
- During this time, particulate matter from burning contributes 30-40% of the PM2.5 concentrations in Delhi’s air.
- The weather also plays an important role; a 30-40% increase in pollutants at any other time of year would not have the same impact.
- Pollutants are trapped and tend to concentrate at lower levels of the atmosphere during October and November, resulting in the current smoke and haze situation.
- During the summer, hotter air rises higher above the surface, carrying pollutants with it.
- As a result, polluting particles are lifted 2-3 km above the surface or even higher before dispersing.
- Other considerations
- Construction activities; transportation of diesel vehicles, particularly older trucks, and so on