New Delhi, October 19 : The good news is that stubble burning incidents in Punjab and Haryana reduced by 50 percent in terms of the comparative figures of the same month last year. The bad news is this: The air quality in and around Delhi is expected to rapidly deteriorate in the coming week as paddy harvesting has gained pace in the two northern states.
Stubble burning has majorly contributed to the worsening of the air quality index during Diwali season in the national capital, which has become environmentally hazardous because of other factors including urbanisation and an exploring population.
The full impact of stubble burning has evaded Delhi and neighboring states including Rajasthan this year because of the delayed monsoons, which prevented the harvesting of the early variety of the paddy crop.
According to the air quality forecast issued by SAFAR from the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology, a spike in air pollutants would be felt in coming days, with the withdrawal of the monsoon – coupled with the start of the harvesting season, as also because of the Diwali festivities.
The warning signs are already here. On Monday, the air quality index in Delhi worsened from 152 (moderate) last week to 242 (poor), with advisory to children, children and the sick to avoid outdoor activities.
In the absence of cost effective alternatives, farmers in Punjab and Haryana have resorted to stubble burning in fields. The Punjab Pollution Control Board’s estimates are that it would take five years to resolve the stubble burning issue, provided the plans on crop diversification are aggressively pursued.
As is the case, the area under paddy cultivation has been increasing. In Punjab, for instance, the paddy cultivation area increased from 29.61 lakh hectares last year to 31.13 lakh years this year. This will result in the generation of 19.76 million tons of paddy straw this year, as compared to 18.74 million tons last year. Crop diversification is a medium term and partial solution, as biomass waste will be produced by other crops – although in lesser quantity. Technology can help reduce the problem, but such machines are expensive.
Journalist by accident, rail, travel and political buff by choice - dissenter by compulsion. Interested in policy and governance.