Stubble Burning and its Choking Grip on India’s Air Quality

Stubble Burning and its Choking Grip on India’s Air Quality

The Supreme Court recently issued a directive to the Punjab Government, instructing them to put an immediate halt to the practice of stubble burning. This decision comes in light of growing concerns regarding the Air Quality Index in Delhi-NCR. The court emphasized that it is the responsibility of the government to take action in this matter. Additionally, the court has also directed the state governments of Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, and Haryana to take measures to control stubble burning. The court expressed its strong desire to see an end to this practice and urged immediate action to be taken. 

Burning Issues in Delhi

Recently, thick clouds of smog engulfed parts of the national capital, causing the air quality in the metropolitan city to remain in the ‘severe’ category, as reported by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB). During the winter months, air pollution levels tend to rise due to various factors. These include dust and vehicular pollution, dry-cold weather conditions, the burning of stubble and crop residues after the harvest season, as well as the daily commuting activities.

The practice of stubble burning has been followed for years, and the resultant smoke has typically accounted for 30% to 40% of Delhi’s October-November pollution, according to the federal government’s air-quality monitoring agency, SAFAR. Expressing concern, the Supreme Court stated that Delhi cannot continue to face such conditions year after year. In response, the court directed the Delhi government to take the necessary measures to prevent the burning of municipal solid waste in open areas.

Burning Issues in Punjab

Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul, presiding over the air pollution case, expressed his dismay at the sight of extensive fires along the roads during his recent visit to Punjab. He described it as a blatant disregard for the well-being of the people, stating that he could find no other words to describe it. The Supreme Court has held the local Station House Officer (SHO) accountable for enforcing the court’s directives on stubble burning, under the supervision of the Director Generals of Police (DGPs) and the Chief Secretary. Additionally, the court has instructed the Chief Secretaries to convene a meeting. Either in person or via Zoom, to address the issue of pollution. According to data from the Punjab Remote Sensing Centre based in Ludhiana, there were 2,060 new incidents of stubble-burning in Punjab. It brings the total number of such cases to 19,463 recently.

Despite efforts to discourage this practice, farmers continued to set crop residue ablaze. The data, reported by PTI, stated that the total number of stubble-burning incidents recorded from September 15 to November 6 this year was 35% lower than the 29,999 cases reported during the same period last year. 

In 2021, the state reported 32,734 farm fires during this period. The Air Quality Index (AQI) in Anand Vihar was measured at 440, Narela at 388, Punjabi Bagh at 434, RK Puram at 431, and Shadipur at 408. All these are falling under the severe category zone’, as per the data shared by the CPCB. Similarly, the AQI at Jahangirpuri was recorded at 416, IGI Airport at 404, Pusa Road at 337, and Sonia Vihar at 407.

Exploring the Ecological Issues of Stubble Burning

Air Quality Index Soars:

The impact of stubble burning on Delhi’s air quality is vividly reflected in the Air Quality Index (AQI) readings that spike during the burning season. The delicate particulate matter (PM2.5 and PM10) released during stubble burning poses severe health risks. This penetrates deep into the respiratory system and causing respiratory illnesses, cardiovascular diseases, and even premature death.

Health Implications:

The spike in air pollution levels is not just a statistic. It has tangible and dire consequences for the health of Delhi’s residents. Children, older people, and individuals with pre-existing respiratory conditions are particularly vulnerable. The increase in hospital admissions due to respiratory issues during this period is a stark reminder of the toll that stubble burning takes on public health.

Economic Impact:

Beyond the immediate health repercussions, the persistent smog that blankets Delhi has far-reaching economic implications. The reduced visibility disrupts transportation and leads to flight cancellations and delays, impacting the daily lives of residents and the productivity of businesses and industries.

Government Initiatives and Challenges:

Recognizing the severity of the issue, the central and state governments have implemented measures to curb stubble burning. Subsidies on farm machinery, awareness campaigns, and penalizing farmers for burning crop residues are among the initiatives to curb this practice. However, challenges such as the lack of viable alternatives, economic constraints faced by farmers, and coordination between states persist. Thus hindering the effectiveness of these measures.

How 2G ethanol can help reduce the burning and improve AQI

One of the primary advantages of 2G ethanol is its ability to provide a viable alternative to stubble burning. The crop residues that will otherwise be set ablaze can be utilized as feedstock for 2G ethanol production. By incentivizing farmers to sell their agricultural residues for ethanol production, stubble burning can significantly put under control. Thus addressing a significant source of air pollution in the region. The ethanol produced then undergoes blending with petrol and sold in the retail market. Thus contributing to a significant reduction in CO2 emissions and potentially cutting India’s oil import bill.

Additionally, the establishment of 2G ethanol plants across India can create an end-use for agri-crop residue. Thus addressing the urgent need to reduce stubble burning and utilize agricultural waste for producing biofuel. This innovative approach not only helps tackle the environmental issue of stubble burning but also provides a sustainable energy source. Thus positioning India as a significant global technology provider in the field of biofuels.

Cleaner Fuel for better AQI

Switching to 2G ethanol as a fuel source also promises a cleaner burn. Traditional fuels emit pollutants that contribute to Delhi’s notorious smog. In contrast, 2G ethanol burns more efficiently, emitting fewer harmful particulate matter and greenhouse gas. Transitioning to this cleaner fuel can directly and positively impact the city’s AQI, reducing the health risks associated with poor air quality.

Economic Opportunities

Beyond its environmental benefits, embracing 2G ethanol opens up economic opportunities. The production and utilization of 2G ethanol can stimulate rural economies by providing farmers with an additional source of income. Establishing ethanol plants can create jobs and contribute to developing a sustainable and circular economy.

Role of Khaitan Bio Energy

Khaitan Bioenergy’s 2G ethanol production plays a pivotal role in mitigating the environmental menace of stubble burning. This offers a sustainable and eco-friendly alternative that addresses both agricultural and environmental concerns.  This creates a win-win situation: farmers are incentivized to provide their crop residues to ethanol plants instead of burning them. Whereas the companies gain a reliable source of raw materials for biofuel production.  

The production and utilization of 2G ethanol contribute to a cleaner energy landscape. This results in improved air quality, directly benefiting the health of individuals, and reducing the overall environmental footprint. As Khaitan Bioenergy embraces 2G ethanol, they align with sustainable practices that address the immediate issue of stubble burning. Thus contributing to a greener and healthier future for agricultural communities and the broader environment.

Government Initiatives and Future Prospects

Several governmental initiatives are already promoting the production and use of 2G ethanol in India. Policy measures such as setting up ethanol plants, offering financial incentives, and blending mandates are steps in the right direction. However, continued investment in research, infrastructure, and public awareness is crucial to realizing the full potential of 2G ethanol in mitigating air pollution and curbing stubble burning.

In pursuing cleaner air for Delhi, 2G ethanol emerges as a beacon of hope. By offering a sustainable alternative to stubble burning and traditional fuels, this biofuel addresses the urgent issue of air pollution. It paves the way for a greener and more resilient future. As technology, policy, and public awareness converge, integrating 2G ethanol into the energy landscape could create a transformative step towards cleaner skies and a healthier environment.