Economic Survey 2019-20: What it says on stubble burning

Survey recognises 'concern' but says trend downwards

By Akshit Sangomla
Published: Friday 31 January 2020
Stubble burning

The Economic Survey 2019-20 declared that the number of crop stubble burning incidents in North India is on a downward trend. This includes the states of Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh.

In a chapter on sustainable development and climate change the survey highlights agricultural residue burning as a “major concern”. The harvesting period of the kharif season with rice as the major crop is when most of the burning happens.

This is also the time when there are stagnant atmospheric conditions leading to a sharp rise in air pollution, especially in the National Capital Territory of Delhi. Crop burning is also associated with declining soil carbon and fertility. 

In the months of October and November of 2019, the problem of stubble burning had caused a pollution scare in North India, especially Delhi. This was because of a sharp rise in the number of incidents during this period as caught in the satellite images released by the NPP-VIIRS satellite of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, United States.

The number of incidents was the maximum from mid-October to early November. This led to an increase in the concentration of particulate matter (PM) 2.5 and PM 10 in Delhi’s atmosphere in these months, compared with September.

“In the month of October, the highest level of PM 10 was 384 which is more than double as compared to the maximum PM 10 of September, 2019. Similarly, the highest level of PM 2.5 in the month of October was 306 which is higher than the September assessment”, said the survey.

In November, PM 10 crossed 550 and PM 2.5 crossed 510. 

But the situation was improving, according to the government. In Punjab, the number of burning incidents have reduced to 50,000 in 2019 from nearly a lakh in 2016, it said. The decline in Haryana and UP was not as drastic.

The government claimed that this reduction because of various initiatives to control crop stubble burning such as the ‘Promotion of Agricultural Mechanization for In-Situ Management of Crop Residue in the States of Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and NCT of Delhi’. 

The survey said:

Under this scheme, the agricultural machines and equipment for in-situ crop residue management such as super straw management system for combine harvesters, happy seeders, hydraulically reversible MB plough, paddy straw chopper, mulcher, rotary slasher, zero till seed drill and rotavators are provided with 50 percent subsidy to the individual farmers and 80 percent subsidy for establishment of custom hiring centres.

The scheme had a budget outlay of Rs 1,151.80 crore for 2018-19 and 2019-20. It further points out that much more needs to be done to curb the continuing practice of stubble burning among farmers.

There was a list of other measures which would help in this effort, including the creation of markets for crop residue-based briquettes and mandate nearby thermal power plants to undertake co-firing of crop residues with coal and a special credit line for financing farm equipment and working capital for private sector participation. 

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