Once again the problems caused by the burning of wheat and rice straw stubble in India are in the news. Each year millions of tonnes of crop residue, known as stubble are set alight to clear fields each October and November to facilitate the quick turnaround of crops. This burning releases formidable amounts of particulate matter into the environment. In an article updated on 10th November Huizong Wu of CNN quotes a tweet by Arvind Kejriwal, Delhi’s chief minister who said ‘Delhi has become a gas chamber. Every year this happens during this part of year,’ – ‘We have to find a solution to crop burning in adjoining states.’
In their article dated 18th October 2017, Amy Kazmin and Jyotsna Singh report that ‘The burning of more than 9m acres of rice crop residues is now recognised as one of the big causes of the hazardous pollution that enshrouds New Delhi each October and November.’ There is increasing pressure on farmers to change their ways by means of fines and other punishments, but it is very difficult for farmers to find alternative ways of disposing of their crop residues which they can afford. It is not only the affordability of alternatives that poses a problem, but the mindset of the farmers.
An article in ‘Down to Earth’ dated 12th October 2017 we are told, ‘The source of the problem has long been identified: multiple cropping and shorter intervals between crops, mechanised harvesters leaving stubble of 10-30 cm in the field,’
Farmers need to have an incentive to dispose of these residues rather than burn them. If small farmers or co-operatives of small farmers could be persuaded to harvest the stubble it is possible that it could be used to produce straw paper pulp in small Eco-pulping mills and then sold to paper mills for conversion into paper and packaging materials.
Financial times: Amy Kazmin Pollution worsens as India’s political smog thickens