Crop burning raises risk of respiratory illness threefold, says IFPRI study

  1. According to a recent study titled “Risk of acute respiratory infection from crop burning in India: estimating disease burden and economic welfare from satellite and national health survey data for 250,000 persons” by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), crop residue burning increases the risk of respiratory illnesses threefold for those who experience it. The study further added that air pollution due to crop residue burning in northern India causes an estimated economic loss of USD 30 billion annually.
  2. The study used NASA satellite data on fire activity to estimate the health impact of people living in Haryana by comparing them with Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh where crop residue burning is not prominent. Health was measured by the frequency of reported hospital visits for Acute Respiratory Infection (ARI) symptoms. The researchers observed that as crop burning increased in Haryana, respiratory health worsened.
  3. Farmers try to maximize their yields by planting the next crop as soon as possible after the previous crop has been harvested (generally wheat after rice). To quickly clear the field for the next crop, they burn the leftover stubble. This large scale burning of crop residues in October- November in Punjab, Haryana and western Uttar Pradesh contributes significantly to the air pollution in Delhi NCR.
  4. In 2013, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) issued a directive to Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh to take immediate steps to curb stubble burning. The Centre and states of Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh have declared “zero tolerance policy” on stubble burning.
  5. Further, in 2018, the Punjab government drafted an action plan to deal with stubble burning. Under the plan, the state has decided to provide straw management machinery at 80% subsidy to the cooperative societies and other groups and at 50% subsidy to individual farmers. The state has also signed MoUs with major companies to set up Bio-CNG, ethanol and biogas plants using crop residue.