A Burning Crisis: The Urgent Need to Address Stubble Burning
Do you know what farmers do with the leftover crop residue after harvesting wheat, rice, and sugarcane? Well, in many parts of the world, including India, they resort to a practice called "stubble burning." This involves setting fire to the crop residue to quickly clear the fields for the next crop cycle. But did you know that this practice is not only harmful to the environment but also poses a significant risk to public health?
So, let's take a closer look at the impact of stubble burning on our health and environment.
What is Stubble Burning?
Stubble burning is a practice where farmers set fire to crop residue in their fields after harvesting crops such as wheat, rice, and sugarcane. This practice is prevalent in many parts of the world, including India, China, and parts of Southeast Asia. While stubble burning helps clear fields for the next crop, it also contributes significantly to air pollution, which is a major environmental and public health concern.
Recently released report on world air quality in 2022 by IQAir highlighted stubble burning as one of the major contributors to poor air quality in India, particularly in the northern states of Punjab and Haryana. The burning of crop residue releases large amounts of particulate matter and other harmful pollutants into the air, contributing significantly to air pollution in the region.
The impact of air pollution due to stubble burning is not limited to the northern states of India. A recent study by the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago found that exposure to air pollution from stubble burning in the state of Uttar Pradesh was associated with an increase in mortality rates among adults aged 45 and above. The study found that exposure to air pollution from stubble burning was responsible for an estimated 10,000 premature deaths in the state in 2019.
Pollutants from Stubble Burning:
- Stubble burning releases a range of air pollutants, including particulate matter (PM), carbon monoxide (CO), volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and nitrogen oxides (NOx).
- The particulate matter released during stubble burning is primarily composed of PM2.5, which is a type of fine particulate matter that can penetrate deep into the lungs and cause respiratory problems.
- The smoke from stubble burning also contains high levels of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), which are toxic compounds that can cause cancer.
Impact of Stubble Burning on Human Health:
- Exposure to air pollution from stubble burning has been linked to a range of health problems, including respiratory illnesses, heart disease, and stroke.
- The fine particulate matter released during stubble burning can penetrate deep into the lungs and cause inflammation, leading to conditions such as asthma, bronchitis, and pneumonia.
- Exposure to air pollution from stubble burning has also been linked to an increased risk of heart disease and stroke, as the pollutants released during burning can enter the bloodstream and cause damage to blood vessels.
- Recent studies have found a link between air pollution from stubble burning and premature mortality rates, with estimates suggesting that thousands of premature deaths occur each year in India due to air pollution from stubble burning.
Imagine stubble burning as a bonfire in a crowded room. As the flames grow, they release toxic fumes that fill the air and make it difficult to breathe. Those closest to the fire suffer the most, struggling to catch their breath and coughing uncontrollably. Eventually, the smoke spreads, filling the entire room and affecting everyone in it. This represents the impact of stubble burning on our environment and public health. The practice may seem like a quick solution to clear fields, but its consequences are far-reaching and affect not just the farmers but also the surrounding communities and the entire planet.
How longer are we willing to tolerate the exploitation of our basic right to breathe clean air? It's time we wake up to take action and hold those responsible accountable for the harmful practice of stubble burning.