Context: The Centre is planning to bring a law to address air pollution as well as check stubble burning in Delhi as well as the surrounding National Capital Region.
More on the news:
- Informing the Supreme Court, the central government held that a draft legislation would be ready this week.
- As a result, the Court suspended its earlier decision to have a one-man committee led by former Justice Madan Lokur to monitor stubble burning.
Need for such a law:
- Stubble burning leading to air pollution: Stubble burning accompanied with the withdrawal of monsoon and starting of winter season, is responsible for air quality deterioration in the Delhi-NCR region.
Supreme Court’s observations:
- Incentives for those not burning the stubble and disincentives for those who continue the practice.
- The existing Minimum Support Price (MSP) Scheme must be so interpreted as to enable the States concerned to wholly or partly deny the benefit of MSP to those who continue to burn the crop residue.
- Student patrol: The court had said the student forces could patrol highways and fields in the regions surrounding NCR and ensure that no fires were started in the fields.
About Stubble Burning:
It is a common practice followed by farmers to prepare fields for sowing of wheat (in November) as there is little time left between the harvesting of paddy and sowing of wheat.
- Results in emission of harmful gases such carbon dioxide, sulphur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide along with particulate matter.
- It adversely affects the environment and public health. For example, one of the associated reasons for clouds of smog choking NCR of Delhi is stubble burning in neighbouring states of Punjab,Rajasthan,Haryana,UP.
Why do farmers opt for stubble burning?
- Have no alternatives for utilising crop residue/stubble effectively.
- Farmers are ill-equipped: To deal with waste because they cannot afford the new technology that is available to handle the waste material.
- Cost cutting: Because of less income due to crop damage, farmers are likely to be inclined to burn residue to cut costs and not spend on scientific ways of stubble management.
- It quickly clears the field and kills weeds, slugs and other pests including those resistant to herbicide.
- Stubble burning can also reduce nitrogen tie-up.
- Wealth from the stubble: There is great potential for making investments in paddy straw-based power plants which can help avoid stubble burning to a large extent and also create employment opportunities.
- Improve soil productivity: Adding crop residues in the soil can improve soil moisture and help activate the growth of soil microorganisms for better plant growth.
- Generation of organic manure: The removed residues can be converted into enriched organic manure through composting.
- Industrial use: Like extraction of yeast protein can be explored through scientific research.
Initiatives at the level of different states:
Nodal officers in villages:
- To check stubble burning this kharif season, the Punjab government has appointed 8,000 nodal officers in villages that grow paddy.
- Also, the crop residue management machines are being given to farmers for on-site management of straw.
- Chhattisgarh has already undertaken an innovative experiment by setting up gauthans.
- A gauthan is a dedicated five-acre plot, held in common by each village, where all the unused parali (stubble) is collected through parali daan (people’s donations).
- It is then converted into organic fertiliser by rural youth.