Enviornment Prelims cum Mains

Crop burning raises risk of respiratory illness threefold, says IFPRI study

News Summary

  • According to a study done by International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), the crop residue burning is causing serious health and economic loss in northern India.


Key Findings

  • Crop residue burning is a leading cause for air pollution northern India especially in Punjab, Haryana and Delhi.
  • Health Cost
    • Crop residue burning is leading risk factor for acute respiratory infection.
    • The study showed that districts with high number of fires per day were associated with population having a 3-fold higher risk of ARI
    • Other factors causing acute respiratory infection  include:
      • Motor-vehicle congestion
      • Open drainage
      • Cooking with biomass
      • Construction in urban areas
  • Economic Cost
    • The economic loss estimated due to crop residue burning and resulting air pollution is around Rs.2.35 lakh crore every year in Punjab Haryana and Delhi.


Crop Residue Burning

  • Crop residue burning is a leading cause for air pollution northern India especially in Punjab, Haryana and Delhi.
  • The Supreme Court-appointed Environmental Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority also in its report pointed out crop residue burning as one of the 5 key sources of air pollution in Delhi-NCR.
  • According to estimates crop residue burnt in India range from 200 million tonnes to 240 million tonnes a year.
  • This is particularly severe in Punjab and Haryana which account for about 20 million tonnes every year.


Steps to reduce crop residue burning

  • In 2013, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) issued a directive to Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh to ban stubble burning.
  • National Biofuels Policy 2018 prescribes use of crop residues to produce biofuels increasing the country’s ethanol and biodiesel production.
  • Given the increased demand for biofuels in the country the menace of stubble burning could be attacked and re-route crop residue for increasing bio fuel production.
  • The National Clean Air Programme recently launches calls for in situ management of crop residue to tackle particulate pollution.


Crop residue burning continues: Why?

  • Crop residue burning continues because farmers do not have alternatives for use of straw.
  • Using crop residue for biofuel is still not economically viable for farmers and biofuel companies because:
  • Logistics cost of collecting the husk is very high
  • Ethanol yield from husk is very low
  • Burning is the quickest solution farmers have before the land is ready for next crop, since harvest window is only 20-30 days.


Way Forward

  • Government should incentivize using of husk in ethanol production.
  • States should bring about micro-guidelines on biofuels in line with National Biofuel Policy.
  • Crop residue can be used for making pellets that can complement the coal burned in thermal power plants.
  • Setting up of ethanol and bio-CNG plants that uses crop residue as fuel.
  • Establishment of a robust supply chain for crop residues from the field to the power plant.


About International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI)

  • The International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) is non-government organisation and an international agricultural research center.
  • It provides research-based policy solutions to sustainably reduce poverty and end hunger and malnutrition in developing countries.
  • IFPRI’s Strategy focuses on five strategic research areas:
    • Fostering Climate-Resilient and Sustainable Food Supply
    • Promoting Healthy Diets and Nutrition for All
    • Building Inclusive and Efficient Markets, Trade Systems, and Food Industry
    • Transforming Agricultural and Rural Economies
    • Strengthening Institutions and Governance

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