Dr. J. Vineesh Prakash
Dr. J. Vineesh Prakash Assistant Professor Department of Economics School of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences SRM University, AP.
Dr. Mohd Murtaza
Dr. Mohd Murtaza Assistant Professor Department of Economics School of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences SRM University, AP.
The union budget 2023-24 announced by the finance ministry has given a major impetus for sustainable development. The budget announces seven stated priorities (Saptarishi) for achieving “Amrit Kaal” an era of self-sustained growth. Green growth, which features among the seven stated priorities, particularly catches the attention because of its implication on sustainable development. The main emphasis of green growth is to propagate economic development on the one hand and at the same time it aims to sustain and preserve the environmental and natural resources. One of the keys features of this budget is the plan to establish 500 new bio-waste recycling plants in rural areas under the “GOBARdhan” scheme. This scheme will enable the people in the rural areas to effectively dispose of agricultural and other organic waste in a sustainable manner. This plan has a substantial implication on reduction of environmental degradation induced by stubble burning, especially in the northern states of Punjab and Haryana.
Stubble burning is the prevalent practice of burning leftover stubble or residues from agricultural crops after harvest in India, especially in the northern states such as Punjab and Haryana. It has been a major contributor to air pollution in the region, causing harm to human health and the environment. The smoke from the burning releases harmful pollutants such as particulate matter, nitrogen oxides, and carbon monoxide into the air, exacerbating air quality issues and affecting visibility. Additionally, stubble burning results in soil degradation and loss of nutrients and contributes to global warming through greenhouse gas emissions.
Farmers have a limited window of time to prepare their fields for the next crop, and burning the stubble is often seen as the quickest and easiest way to clear the field. Further, the cost of alternate methods such as ploughing the stubble back into the soil or transporting it for disposal can be high, putting a financial strain on already struggling farmers. Moreover, many farmers are not aware of alternative methods of managing crop residue and the impacts of stubble burning on the environment and human health. These reasons, along with a few others, have contributed to the widespread use of stubble burning in northern India, despite its negative consequences.
The environmental impact of stubble burning has become a major concern for citizens and environmental groups, who are calling for stricter regulations and a shift towards more sustainable practices. Furthermore, the health effects of stubble burning on local communities, especially those living near farms adjacent urban settlements, have become a source of public outcry and demand for action from politicians. The problem of stubble burning is concentrated in northern India, particularly in the states of Punjab, Haryana and NCR region, which has led to tensions between these neighbouring states affected by the smoke and pollutants. With a growing number of citizens concerned about the issue, political parties have started to include stubble burning in their election campaigns, promising to act and find solutions if elected.
Source: NASA’s Fire Information for Resource Management System (FIRMS).
Various state governments in India have taken number of steps to prevent the burning of stubble. One of the major steps undertaken is to promote awareness campaigns among the farmers to educate them about the detrimental effects of stubble burning and to encourage alternate ways of agricultural residue management. Farmers that embrace alternate techniques of crop residue management, such as ploughing the stubble back into the soil or transferring it for disposal, have been granted financial incentives. Subsidies and assistance for the purchase of mechanical threshers and other agricultural equipment that assists with crop residue processing and disposal have been encouraged. In order to discourage this practice, penalties and fines on farmers who continue to burn stubble have been introduced. These policy measures have been implemented with the aim of reducing stubble burning and promoting more sustainable methods of managing crop residue. However, the effectiveness of these measures in reducing stubble burning and their implementation on the ground remains a challenge.
Despite various policy measures, the incidence of stubble burning has only registered an upward rise (Figure). The state of Haryana has witnessed a better outlook in recent years due to its proactive policies. Although GOBARdhan scheme is a baby step towards reducing the incidence of stubble burning in the long run. Still the authorities have a long way to go in achieving the stated goal. The failings of the various state-level programs have to be studied thoroughly before their actual implementation. Let’s hope the policy makers and implementing authorities will be able to nudge the farmer’s behaviour with well-designed incentives.