Stop the air assault on north India: End to crop burning is achievable and farmers can lead the way
Seema Paul and Priya Shyamsundar, November 18, 2017
North India is once again in a public health emergency with air pollution levels hovering high above the danger mark. New Delhi, downwind of Punjab and Haryana, is most severely impacted, with a thick layer of smog choking its citizens. With over 4,000 primary schools closed last week and delays in every form of transportation contributing to significant economic losses, we are facing a crisis that simply cannot be ignored. Crop residue burning contributes to nearly a quarter of Delhi’s air pollution in winter.
India’s food security has benefited hugely by advances in agricultural technologies and new high-yielding rice wheat systems. Over time, this has taken a toll on the region’s water supply and as an adaptive measure, a few years ago the government mandated the timing of the rice planting season to coincide with the monsoon rains. This has left farmers a short window of about 15-20 days to harvest their rice, dispose of rice residue and plant the subsequent wheat crop.
In northwest India alone, rice residue amounts to nearly 33.9 million tonnes, and sustainably disposing it in the short window of two weeks before the next crop is a daunting task that requires labour, time and capital. The farmer’s quick fix for some time now has been to light a match and clear their fields.
Any solution to this problem must be in the interest of farmers and address technical, economic, behavioural and financial barriers. Currently, the most common practices of utilising rice residue include electricity generation, production of bio-oil and on-farm use such as incorporation and composting. Less than 15% of the total rice residue in northwest India is being utilised through these various options, clearly indicating a need to find more viable, affordable and scalable solutions.
(Inglés) Parar la contaminación del aire al norte de la India: Dejar de quemar las cosechas es realizable
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