At the onset of winter every year, stubble burning is invariably blamed for the smog in and around Delhi. What are the other factors contributing to smog? Suggest alternatives for disposal of the stubble.

At the onset of winter every year, stubble burning is invariably blamed for the smog in and around Delhi. What are the other factors contributing to smog? Suggest alternatives for disposal of the stubble.

Approach :

  • Introduce with what is smog and smog problem in northern India.
  • Mention the various reasons contributing to it with focus on stubble burning.
  • Suggest alternatives to the stubble burning.
  • Conclude appropriately.
Model Answer :

Smog is used to refer to a type of air pollution caused by a combination of smoke (and other pollutants) and fog. It has become a perennial problem in Delhi and adjoining areas of the National Capital Territory of India where air pollution peaked on both PM 2.5 and PM 10 levels. Indian Medical Association declared it as a ‘state of medical emergency’.

Stubble burning:

Paddy stubble burning in areas around Delhi, at the onset of winter every year, increases the severity of smog, creating a health crisis. Due to paucity of time and to save on costs of stubble disposal, farmers in Punjab, Haryana and Delhi burn their combine harvested fields to prepare it for sowing of wheat crop.

Smog gets accentuated as cold weather and stagnant winds in this season trap the smoke particles near the ground surface. However, stubble burning is only one of the several factors responsible for this smog.

Other factors contributing to smog:

  • Vehicular emissions, especially from trucks, which have large contribution.
  • Power plants, industries and domestic cooking
  • Road dust, which accounts for about 35% of PM 2.5 in the air according to a study by IIT Kanpur.
  • Municipal solid waste burning
  • Dust from construction activities like land clearing, demolition etc.

In light of the health emergency created by the severe smog, and the far reaching impact of stubble burning, there have been calls from all stakeholders for finding alternative methods to dispose of the paddy straw.

Alternatives to Stubble Burning:

  • Paddy straw can be used by Biomass energy plants for generating power.
  • Using Turbo Happy Seeder Machine, which can drill the wheat seeds into soil and deposit the straw over the sown area as mulch cover.
  • It can be used along with sugarcane leaves to make rich quality of organic manure in a compost pit.
  • In-situ decomposition with microbial application
  • Crop diversification from rice to other crops

There is a need to holistically address the problem. Considering most farmers are small and marginal, Government needs to provide them with either financial incentives or alternative modes of disposal. Meanwhile, in regions in and around Delhi, measures must be taken to mitigate other pollutants through public transportation, ban on old diesel vehicles and polluting industries, vaccum cleaning of road dust etc.

Subjects : Ecology and Environment

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