Did you know that stubble burning is one of the reasons that contributes massively to the highly polluted air in Delhi and its surroundings?
Well, you might say “Yes” because everyone else says so. But, it’s crucial to understand how stubble burning can impact your lungs severely.
Stubble Burning is also known as Paddy Stubble Burning.
Let’s first understand the term “Stubble Burning”.
It refers to the practice of burning leftover plant debris, specifically, relating to rice.
This practice is particular to the Indian state of Punjab and Haryana, where there are 2 harvesting seasons. The first season where the rice is sown, then, in order to quickly prepare their fields for the next season, the leftovers from the rice plant - the stem & the root pods - are burnt.
The scale of Stubble Burning in India
Every year, rice farms in Punjab collectively burn about 7 to 8 million metric tons of leftover plant debris in October and November, which has a severe impact on the surrounding environment and the health of citizens.
In 2021, the Punjab Remote Sensing Centre (PRSC), Ludhiana, recorded 925 field fires till October 12 across the state. Due to this, the Punjab Pollution Control Board (PPCB) imposed Rs 4.83 lakh environmental compensation at Rs 2,500 per fire incident on farmers after verifying 178 sites.
Are there alternatives to Stubble Burning?
For one, the composition of stubble consists of a high amount of silica, it is not a viable option as fodder for cattle. Secondly, transporting it to other places where it is useful, requires time, labor, and capital.
Systemic solutions such as using technology to mix stubble with soil are still being developed. And changing cropping patterns to reduce the area under rice cultivation is not a solution, it being a cash crop for farmers.
The resolution for controlling stubble burning requires a combination of political, economic and government measures.
Unfortunately, so far, this vexed problem does not seem to have a resolution in the near future as Governments do not wish to impose a heavy-handed approach to stopping stubble burning.
And tough options such as court orders like bans and heavy fines often remain unenforced.
Stubble burning contributes heavily to air pollution in North India and its cities.
Burning stubble in Punjab and surrounding states has a resultant effect in areas surrounding the state and beyond. Around mid-October every year, the air quality in India’s capital city, Delhi & its vicinity deteriorates abysmally.
There is a huge rise in breathing and other respiratory diseases during this period. A study has pointed out that Air pollution in Delhi shortens its citizen’s life by nearly 6 years.
Stubble burning is a humanitarian crime that requires an urgent solution in the interest of people and the environment. It is high time that a quick solution is found to this vexed problem.
Stubble Burning should concern you. Here’s why…
First, let’s establish something.
The wind direction in Punjab and Haryana pushes the smoke arising from stubble burning towards the northern region of India.
Studies suggest that stubble burning emits fine particulate matter (PM2.5), an air pollutant that is a concern for people’s health when levels in the air are high; the particles can get trapped inside the lungs and increase the risk of lung cancer by 36 percent.
Now, you would think, “I am wearing N99/N95 masks to protect myself from the smoke. I certainly don’t need to worry about it.”
Well, you are doing the right thing by wearing masks outdoors. But, what about indoors?
Our houses and offices are never 100% sealed from the outside air. Hence, the smoke resulting from stubble burning is not only residing over the city but also inside your house and office.
So, what should you do to protect your family at home and colleagues at the office from indoor air pollution?
The immediate solution to tackling any kind of indoor air pollution is: -
- Having a good seal to windows and balcony doors, in order to create a positive pressure inside the house or office. Fresh air flow would be detrimental to indoor air quality as the outdoor air is polluted.
- The second in line is an effective air purification system to purify the air indoors. While considering the air quality in India, we need air purifiers throughout the year. However, air purifiers become even more necessary during the winter season.
The more important consideration is to have an air purification system that works for you.
How to choose the right air purifier for your home/office?
When you’re looking at air purifiers, make sure that you have the dimensions of your room written down and know how big a machine you need to effectively clean the air of your room.
Buying an air purifier that is capable of performing 3-4 air change cycles per hour is the base recipe to achieving pure air in a room.
Upon knowing the dimension of your room, you can look for an air purifier that matches or exceeds the coverage area of your room.
The common practice would be to buy one air purifier with a coverage area between 350 sq. ft. to 450 sq. ft. for each of your bedrooms.
Keeping the above in mind, for larger rooms (ex: living room) you should evaluate between using an air purifier with larger capacity or multiple air purifiers kept in different corners to facilitate better air circulation.
Also, there are a large number of air purifier options to choose from in the market. The best practice when buying an air purifier is to know that HEPA 13 is the gold standard in air purifiers for home.
However, considering the condition of Indian air quality, you would definitely need a combination of filters to comprehensively eliminate air pollutants.
Therefore you are better off going for a HEPA air purifier combined with activated carbon and UV light. The latter would take care of smell, virus, and bacteria - as it is the need of the hour.
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