Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment
From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:
Prelims level: Not much
Mains level: Winter air pollution caused by stubble burning
- A recent study says that the enforcement of the ban on stubble burning isn’t an only feasible solution.
Ground zero reality
- On average, about 20 million tonnes of straw are generated in Punjab, and they barely have two to three weeks to dispose them off and prepare the fields for the next crop.
- Hence the popularity of deploying stubble-burning as a quick and cheap solution.
- For about a decade now the Centre has held this practice responsible for the abysmal air quality in the capital in winter.
Ban not a solution
- According to the team, the government’s efforts earmarking funds for specialized farming equipment (for straw management) or enforcing the state-led ban on the practice are unlikely to solve the problem.
- Farmer cooperative groups a key link between government and farmers ought to be playing a more active role in educating farmers.
- The main message is that farmers are not to blame (for the pollution crisis).
- There are deeper causes beyond economic incentives or awareness about the health consequences of burning at play.
Govt. measures so far
- The Centre has spent about ₹600 crore in subsidizing farm equipment via village cooperatives to enable farmers to access them and avoid stubble burning.
- In 2018, Punjab had disbursed about 8,000 farm implements to individual farmers and set up 4,795 custom hiring centers, from where such machinery could be leased.
- However, the success of these efforts has been mixed, even though stubble-fires in 2018 were fewer than in 2017 and 2016, according to satellite maps by independent researchers.
What do researchers say?
- The researchers found that farmers who had bigger landholdings were more likely to burn straw.
- Those who used harvesters (for cutting the straw) as opposed to manual labourers were more likely to engage in burning.
- On average, the input costs of farmers who burned straw were about ₹40,000 per acre and those who didn’t about ₹25,000 per acre.
- However the incomes of those who burned and those who didn’t were closer about ₹60,000 and ₹50,000 respectively.
- There needs to be greater participation by village cooperatives in being able to impose social norms that would dissuade burners.
- Only educating farmers about the monetary costs of burning stubble can address the environmental crisis triggered every year.