Unmasking the Silent Menace: Stubble Burning’s Impact on Southern India’s Air Quality

Impacts of stubble burning in southern states of India


In recent years, stubble burning has become a notorious environmental issue. It affects not only the northern states of India but also makes its threatening presence felt in the southern regions. While the majority of media attention has been directed towards the northern states during the post-harvest season, the southern states are also very much affected by stubble burning. It is crucial to shed light on how this agricultural practice is silently affecting the air quality of the southern states as well.

As the impact of stubble burning on air quality continues to affect India, hope emerges in the form of 2G ethanol production. This innovative approach tackles the environmental issues caused by stubble burning. Also, it helps transform agricultural waste into a valuable and sustainable source of clean fuel.

Stubble Burning & Its Impact on Air Quality:

Stubble burning is a common practice to clear fields. After harvest, that releases harmful pollutants into the air, contributing to air quality degradation, respiratory issues, and environmental deterioration. Recognizing the urgent need for alternatives, the focus has shifted towards 2G ethanol production as a promising solution for the impact of stubble burning.

The combustion of crop residue releases a cocktail of pollutants, including particulate matter (PM). They are carbon monoxide (CO), nitrogen dioxide (NO2), and volatile organic compounds (VOCs). These pollutants, once formed in the atmosphere, can travel long distances. Thus affecting the air quality in regions far removed from the burning sites.

Southern States in the Grip:

Southern India, renowned for its lush landscapes and vibrant culture, is not immune to the consequences of stubble burning. The practice, mainly associated with the northern states, extends its damaging influence beyond regional boundaries. The winds, carrying suspended particulate matter and pollutants, traverse vast distances, affecting the air quality in southern states like Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, and Telangana.

A recent study published in Elsevier’s Science of the Total Environment journal revealed the stubble burning impacts. In north India, the impact of stubble burning significantly contributed to the poor air quality in Mumbai during the previous winter season. Led by Gufran Beig, chair professor at the National Institute of Advanced Studies, the study highlighted how the La Nina phenomenon over three consecutive years disrupted wind patterns in 2022–23. Thus causing northerly winds carrying pollutants from stubble burning to reach the city. The study also pointed out prolonged periods of calm winds in Mumbai. It allowed these pollutants to linger in the region, exacerbating the existing sources of pollution.

Satellite data and air quality monitoring stations reveal a sharp reality: the southern states are struggling with elevated levels of air pollution after the harvest season. The fine particulate matter, known as PM2.5, poses significant health risks as it can penetrate deep into the respiratory system, causing respiratory issues and long-term health complications.

From October 2022 to January 2023, cities in northern India witnessed a positive change in their air quality. During this period, Ghaziabad experienced a significant reduction of 33% in PM2.5 levels, followed by Rohtak with a decrease of 30%, Noida with 28%, and Delhi with 10%. However, the situation was different for cities located in the peninsular region and along the west coast. These cities faced an increase in pollution, with Mumbai witnessing a spike of 30% in PM2.5 levels, Coimbatore with 28%, Bengaluru with 20%, and Chennai with 12%. This scenario was particularly unusual because northern cities typically face pollution due to stubble burning, while coastal cities benefit from the presence of the ocean and winds.

Health Concerns:

The consequences of compromised air quality are far-reaching. Children, the elderly, and individuals with pre-existing respiratory conditions are particularly vulnerable. Increased exposure to air pollutants can lead to respiratory problems, cardiovascular diseases, and even exacerbate existing health conditions.

From November 2022 to January 30, 2023, Mumbai experienced 36 days with ‘poor’ AQI, indicating a significant increase in airborne pollutant levels. According to Central Pollution Control Board data, the city had not encountered such a high number of ‘poor’ air days in at least four years. Additionally, Mumbai did not have a single’satisfactory’ air day between October 22, 2022, and January 30, 2023. The poor air quality prompted the civic body and state to implement air pollution control measures in 24 civic wards for the first time.

2G Ethanol Production as a Solution to Stubble Burning

Environmental Benefits of 2G Ethanol Production:

  • Reduced Air Pollution: By utilising stubble to produce 2G ethanol, we can effectively eliminate the need for open-field burning, thereby curbing the release of harmful pollutants into the atmosphere.
  • Lower Greenhouse Gas Emissions: 2G ethanol is considered a low-carbon fuel, emitting fewer greenhouse gases than traditional fossil fuels. This helps in mitigating climate change and promoting environmental sustainability.
  • Energy Security: Dependence on fossil fuels can be reduced by incorporating 2G ethanol into the energy mix. It offers a renewable and domestically sourced alternative, contributing to energy security.
  • Waste Utilization: 2G ethanol production provides a valuable avenue for utilising agricultural waste. This not only reduces environmental hazards but also transforms a previously discarded resource into a valuable commodity.

Addressing the Issue: Impact of Stubble Burning

To mitigate the consequences of stubble burning on the air quality of southern states, a multi-sided approach is important. Farmers need to be provided with alternative, sustainable methods for managing crop residue. Government initiatives promoting awareness, financial support, and incentives for adopting eco-friendly practices can play an important role in reducing this environmental problem.

Khaitan Bio Energy provides a solution for stubble burning through its patented technology for the production of 2G ethanol using rice straw as the primary raw material. This technology is crucial in combating the environmental issue of stubble burning. It provides a sustainable and environmentally friendly option that tackles both agricultural and environmental issues. This results in a mutually beneficial situation. Farmers are encouraged to supply their crop residues to biorefineries rather than burning them. While companies secure a dependable source of raw materials for biofuel manufacturing.


Stubble burning, once dismissed as a localised concern, is revealing its broader reach. Thus affecting the air quality of southern states in India too. Policymakers, environmentalists, and communities must come together, fostering awareness and advocating sustainable farming practices. By understanding the far-reaching consequences of stubble burning, we can collectively work towards preserving the quality of the air. Thus, our diverse and beautiful southern landscapes.

Khaitan Bioenergy plays a vital role in addressing the environmental problem of stubble burning through the production of 2G ethanol. By offering a sustainable and eco-friendly alternative, the company effectively addresses both agricultural and environmental concerns. This creates a win-win situation where farmers are incentivized to deliver their crop residues to ethanol plants instead of burning them, while companies ensure a reliable supply of raw materials for biofuel production.

The production of 2G ethanol from stubble is a game-changer in the battle against stubble burning and its environmental issues. By turning agricultural waste into a sustainable and clean fuel source, we not only address the challenges of air pollution. But also contribute to a greener, more sustainable future. We must continue to invest in research, technology, and policy support to unlock the full potential of 2G ethanol. Thus, we pave the way for a cleaner, healthier environment.