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NHRC Concern Over Stubble Burning

Why is it in the news?

  • Recently, NHRC expressed serious concern over the slow progress in reducing stubble burning to combat air pollution in Delhi.
  • NHRC recommended that states should not only provide subsidies to farmers but also allocate resources for those who cannot afford expensive equipment.
  • NHRC directs the states of Punjab, Haryana, and Uttar Pradesh to submit daily status reports on the distribution of machines to farmers to achieve targeted procurement within the next 15 days.

About Stubble burning

  • Stubble burning is the practice of burning crop residues, particularly paddy straw, as part of post-harvest field clearing.
  • Paddy crop contributes significantly to stubble burning due to its high proportion of agro-waste, approximately 70% of total stubble generated in India.
  • Stubble burning is prominent in states like Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan, and Uttar Pradesh, where rice cultivation is prevalent.

Initiatives to reduce stubble burning

  • National Policy for Management of Crop Residues (2014) to be adopted by states.
  • Establishing biomass power projects and mandate the use of biomass, including 50% paddy straw, as a supplementary fuel by coal plants in the National Capital Region (NCR).
  • Promote crop diversification and the use of short-duration, high-yielding rice varieties to reduce reliance on paddy straw.
  • Conduct capacity-building and awareness initiatives to educate stakeholders about the harmful effects of stubble burning.
  • Enforce a ban on crop residue burning in specific states (e.g., Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Punjab) through National Green Tribunal (NGT) orders. Violations are treated as crimes under Section 188 of the IPC and the Air and Pollution Control Act of 1981.
  • Promote the use of machinery such as Happy Seeder, Rotavators, Balers, Paddy Straw Chopper, and Reaper Binder to manage crop residues.
  • Utilize Bio-Decomposer technology developed by IARI to decompose straw and convert it into manure.
  • Encourage alternative uses of stubble, including cattle feed, compost, roofing material, mushroom cultivation, packaging, fuel, paper, bio-ethanol, and industrial production.
  • Provide government subsidies for machinery used in the in-situ management of crop residue.
  • Offer bonuses or incentives to farmers switching to alternative crops instead of rice, as seen in the example of Haryana’s “Kheti Khaali, Fir Bhi Khushali.”

Issues in Implementation

  • Technological interventions face challenges due to time constraints and delayed subsidies, hindering their effectiveness.
  • Weather conditions, such as rainfall, can delay the application of bio-decomposer.
  • Implementation of the polluter pays principle is challenging, and political blame games often hinder enforcement.
  • Lack of awareness and motivation among farmers to adopt alternative methods is a significant obstacle.
  • Limited procurement support for crops other than rice and wheat discourages farmers from diversifying.

Potential Solutions

  • Establish Rice Bioparks to convert rice stubble into income and employment opportunities for farmers.
  • Enhance machinery availability and create custom hiring centers (CHCs) through farm cooperatives.
  • Develop a logistics system to collect and transport paddy straw to alternative use industries for ex-situ residue management.
  • Utilize drones and ISRO capabilities for monitoring stubble burning, enforce the Polluter Pays principle, and ensure effective penalties.
  • Provide basic amenities to small and marginal farmers to raise awareness and facilitate their transition away from stubble burning.

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