Stubble burning to cost India Rs 11 lakh crore in 5 years, but it could be saved: 6 key facts

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March 05, 2019 1:08 PM

Eliminating the practice of stubble burning will not only help in improving people’s health but will also contribute towards soil and plant diversity, and in reducing the greenhouse gas emissions, said the study.

Stubble burning has become a major concern in India which adversely affects people’s health and also retards nation’s productivity. In a damning new report, it is estimated that crop burning can cost up to about Rs 11 lakh crore in five years. In north-western India, which is severely suffering from air pollution, the primary factor contributing to it is crop stubble burning. Here are the highlights from a study by International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI):

  • The economic cost of air pollution from stubble burning in three north Indians states of Punjab, Haryana and Delhi is estimated at Rs 2.35 lakh crore annually, according to a new study by International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).Crop-burning abatement, in northern India, would prevent disability-adjusted life years equivalent to $153 billion (about Rs 11 lakh crore) over a 5-year period.
  • Eliminating crop stubble burning would add 14.9 million life years in Haryana, Punjab and Delhi that would otherwise be lost to disability and disease.
  • Pollution from crop stubble burning and firecrackers together cost nearly 1.7 per cent of India’s GDP.
  • The outdoor air pollution in India has increased by 16.6% between 1990-2016
  • When rice farmers in north-western India burn their fields, fine particulate matter (PM2.5) concentrations in Delhi, the highly populated capital city located downwind of burning areas, spike to about 20 times beyond the World Health Organization’s threshold for safe air.

Crop stubble burning is widely practiced in the north west India, mainly Punjab, Delhi and Haryana. The farmers burn their crop residue to quickly clear the field for the next crop in order to maximise their yields. This is one of the major causes of the severe air pollution in Delhi increasing the risk of acute respiratory infection (ARI) three-fold for those living in districts with intense crop burning, said the study by co-authored by IFPRI’s Samuel Scott and Avinash Kishore.

Eliminating the practice of stubble burning will not only help in improving people’s health but will also contribute towards soil and plant diversity, and in reducing the greenhouse gas emissions, said the study. However, farmers continue to practice it due to lack of convenient and affordable alternatives.

The study calls for further investment in crop burning abatement practices to promote sustainable economic development.

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