THE GREAT SMOG OF INDIA(EXCERPTS FROM THE BOOK )

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Contrary to popular perception in urban India, residue burning is not an age-old practice. The practice – at this magnitude, frequency...



Contrary to popular perception in urban India, residue burning is not an age-old practice. The practice – at this magnitude, frequency and scale – can trace its origins to only a few decades ago and is the result of the evolution of farming operations, government policy, and changing labour markets, which were triggered by the Green Revolution of the late 1960s and 1970s and the agricultural policies that followed. Prior to the Green Revolution, Punjab and Haryana were not producers or consumers of rice and did not have the RWCS [rice-wheat cropping system] in place, and therefore there was no large-scale instance of crop residue burning. While it is hard to pinpoint the exact year when stubble burning became a mainstay in this region, such burning has been blamed for poor air quality in Punjab and Haryana since the early 2000s.
The Green Revolution itself, however, had the noblest intentions and has played a significant role in improving the fortunes of the region and bringing food security to India. That a revolution in agriculture was necessary is by itself not up for debate.What the revolution and subsequent policies did, however, was to contribute to the creation and timing of the air pollution crisis and also to the rapidly depleting groundwater levels; this has been termed as an “agro-ecological” crisis.

There were two main schools of thought on agricultural reforms: those that wanted a technological revolution and those that wanted a social one. The group that wanted a technological revolution in agriculture favoured unprecedented access to pesticides, fertilisers, credit – but most of all, hybrid seeds. In 1961, MS Swaminathan, a scientist at the Indian Agricultural Research Institute, citing the recent successes of other countries, advocated that the Indian government purchase expensive high-yielding varieties (HYV) of seeds from abroad and then offer a price guarantee to farmers to assure them a return on their investment.
This met with resistance, in particular from the Planning Commission. However, in 1964, led by the agriculture minister, C Subramaniam, the government turned and favoured the idea of importing seeds and providing price guarantees. There was expected political opposition from those that favoured social revolution, arguing that this would only favour large farmers and harm consumers.
The debate was put to rest soon after US President Lyndon B Johnson assumed office in 1963. He did not have a good equation with the Indian government. “You can’t give all this [food aid] away and run around dewy-eyed. You’ve got to be a little practical as to what it does and what India builds and we can’t keep doing it forever,” Johnson said. In 1966, Johnson put in place the “ship-to-mouth” policy, where food shipments to India would be released just in time for them to be consumed, leaving nothing for storage and keeping India on the edge of its charpoy in anticipation of the next shipment.
This was perceived by India as a humiliation at the hands of President Johnson and was used by Prime Minister Indira Gandhi to ignore the opposition and push for a technological revolution backed by price support, thus triggering the Green Revolution as we know it. This led to a whopping 40% increase in wheat production (from 12 million to 17 million tonnes) within a year.
The Green Revolution and the basket of policies that followed led to agricultural production in India rising significantly, and the country went on to ultimately end reliance on foreign aid to feed its population. These policies, however, also brought in a few significant changes to the cropping pattern in India – this has ultimately led to the “agricultural shock” caused by stubble burning. It was these policies of price support, the introduction of HYV seeds, the boom in tube well irrigation, the proliferation of combine harvesters and bureaucratic schedules in agriculture that led to the creation of the RWCS and the squeezing out of days between the two crops. This fuelled the practice of stubble burning, leading to the air pollution crisis in the region.

During the Green Revolution, an HYV of rice had been introduced that was developed by the International Rice Research Institute in the Philippines – it could produce seven tonnes of rice per hectare instead of the existing varieties that produced only two tonnes per hectare, and it also took much less time to hit full maturity.

This HYV rice could not be used in traditional rice-growing areas in southern India at that time. The existing varieties of rice had involved a cycle starting in June, with the onset of the monsoon, to harvesting in December.

If the HYV rice was to follow the same schedule, it would start in June but mature in October, which would involve the destruction of harvest due to the ongoing rains at that time.
The breakthrough for this HYV rice eventually came in Punjab, Haryana and western Uttar Pradesh in the 1970s, where owing to tube-well development, the land was already well irrigated. The tube wells that were installed on the back of gains made by wheat cultivation went on to become useful for HYV rice. These regions were not traditional rice-growing areas prior to the Green Revolution. The farmers here were therefore free from the constraints that had prevented HYV rice being used in traditional rice-growing areas.
As rice cultivation expanded, rice production in Punjab as a share of the national production went from 0.7% in 1960 to 7% by 1979. This was promoted by the state, with the government procuring around 80% of the rice produced in Punjab in the 1980s. There were similar gains in Haryana and western Uttar Pradesh. And just like that, the region was producing two crops on a large scale: rice and wheat, with wheat being sown and harvested in the dry winter season, and rice to coincide with the monsoon season. The RWCS had been established.
This cropping system had support from the government. The state governments of Punjab and Haryana had mandated that the timing of the rice planting should coincide with the monsoon rains which lash the region starting early July. Since 2009, there has even been a law called the Punjab Preservation of Subsoil Water Act that has prohibited the cultivation of paddy before a date is decided by the government.
Owing to such mandates and regulations, the two crop periods of Kharif and Rabi in the case of rice and wheat moved close to one another, leaving about fifteen days in between the two crop cycles.

This put pressure on farmers to prepare the farm for the next crop in a handful of days, and burning the residue has proven to be the cheapest and quickest way to do so.

Such a cropping pattern is not a global phenomenon as India’s monsoons are quite unique, as is the RWCS. Europe, for instance, with its sporadic rainfall through the year, does not have a monsoon season the way India does. Monsoons are defined by meteorologists as the shift in prevailing wind caused by the heating differential between land and sea that brings a seasonal and predictable period of significant rainfall. India’s south-westerly monsoon is cited as among the world’s best instances of such a phenomenon. The RWCS was developed in Punjab, Haryana and western Uttar Pradesh owing to India’s monsoon patterns as well as the basket of policies that originated from the Green Revolution. India’s crop residue burning practice in October and November is therefore not only unique, it is also a recent phenomenon.


The stubble burning itself was made inevitable to the farmers of the region for multiple reasons. For one, the HYV rice ensured that the residue left was much taller than the basmati residue, while at the same time being less palatable as fodder for animals. More importantly, the proliferation of combine harvesters, while it has had positive outcomes for production, leaves a farm in a condition that makes crop residue management harder.
Prior to the arrival of these combines, manual labour was employed to cut down the plant and then separate the edible part. Because this process was manual, workers were able to both remove the edible and marketable part of the plant and also uproot the rest alongside. This was, however, a labour-intensive and time-consuming process.
These combine harvesters changed all that. They were very effective in the job they did – that is, cut, thresh and clean the grains using rotating blades, wheels, sieves and elevators. But they had a downside: they would leave behind the rest of the plant, which portion was about one foot tall. Farmers claim that these harvesters leave this residue in such a condition that it becomes even harder to remove manually than otherwise. Farmers complain that the residue is often too sharp, which not only injures them, but also makes it difficult for animals to graze on.

Over 26,000 combine harvesters are in use in India today, half of which are in north-western India.25 These combine harvesters have triggered a practice that is now a major contributor to air pollution in India. The increased purchase and use of machinery has not only displaced manual labour, but also animal labour on the farms. The crop residue that was once valued as feedstock for farm animals was no longer needed as the use of farm animals was replaced by machinery, thus further incentivising the burning of it. In Punjab and Haryana in particular, the residual rice straw that remains is non-palatable to animals and impacts the quality and quantity of milk produced by cows, owing to which farmers refuse to go the extra mile to collect and sell this residue.
Naturally, when hundreds of thousands of farm owners burn their crops in a region where farming is the largest employer, and at the time of year when the winds have slowed down, the whole region will be engulfed in smoke and haze – which is exactly what makes the great smog an annual affair in not only Delhi, but also the rest of the northern Indian region. This time of year has a dangerous cocktail of emissions from other sources combining with slow winds and low temperatures that ensure particulate matter settles down to lower altitudes.
The Green Revolution set in motion a sequence of events that brought technology and better seeds into the country, price support to certain crops and certain agricultural practices. Beyond these initial measures, agricultural reforms stalled, owing to which many social and structural problems continue to ail the sector. Owing to this, the farm sector is still in distress, which has slowed down the large-scale adoption of newer technologies, including those that can deal with the agricultural air pollution shock.

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ब्लॉगर्स,1,नेत्रदान का महत्‍व,1,नेत्रदान कैसे करें?,1,नैनो टेक्नालॉजी,1,नॉटिलस,1,नोबल पुरस्कार,1,नोबेल पुरस्कार,2,न्‍यूटन,1,परमाणु पनडुब्‍बी,1,परासरण विधि,1,पर्यावरण और हम,1,पर्यावरण चेतना,2,पशु पक्षी व्यवहार,1,पहली बारिश,1,पाई दिवस,1,पुच्‍छल तारा,1,पुरुष -स्त्री लिंग अनुपात,1,पूर्ण अँधियारा चंद्रग्रहण,1,पृथ्वी की परिधि,3,पृथ्‍वेतर जीवन,1,पेट्रोल चोरी,1,पेंसिल,1,पैडल वाली पनडुब्बी,1,पैराशूट,1,पॉवर कट से राहत,1,पौरूष शक्ति,1,प्रकाश,2,प्रज्ञाएँ,1,प्रतिपदार्थ,1,प्रतिरक्षा,1,प्रदूषण,1,प्रदूषण और आम आदमी,1,प्ररेणा प्रसंग,1,प्रलय,2,प्रलय का दावा बेटुल्गुयेज,1,प्रसव पीड़ा,1,प्रेम में ।धोखा,1,प्रोटीन माया,1,प्लास्टिक कचरा,1,फाई दिवस,1,फिबोनाकी श्रेणी,1,फिबोनाची,1,फेसबुक,1,फ्रीवेयर,1,फ्रेंकेंस्टाइन,1,फ्रेंच किसिंग,1,बनारस,1,बायो-क्रेमेशन,1,बायोमैट्रिक पहचान तकनीकियाँ,2,बाल विज्ञान कथा,1,बालसुब्रमण्यम,6,बिग-बेंग सिद्धांत,1,बिजली,1,बिजली उत्‍पादन,1,बिजली कैसे बनती है?,1,बिजलीघर,1,बिली का विकल्‍प,1,बी0एम0डब्ल्यू0,1,बीरबल साहनी,1,बुलेटप्रूफ,1,बैल चालित पम्प,1,ब्रह्मण्‍ड,1,ब्रह्मा,1,ब्रह्माण्‍ड,1,ब्रह्माण्‍ड के रहस्‍य,1,ब्रह्मान्ड,1,ब्रेन म्‍यूजिक,1,ब्लॉग लेखन,1,ब्लॉग लेखन के द्वारा विज्ञान संचार,2,ब्लॉगिंग का महत्व,1,भारतीय आयुर्विज्ञान अनुसंधान परिषद,1,भारतीय विज्ञान कथा लेखक समिति,1,भारतीय वैज्ञानिक,2,भारतीय शोध,1,भूकंप के झटके,1,भूकम्‍प,1,भूगर्भिक हलचलें,1,मंगल,1,मधुमेह और खानपान,1,मनजीत सिंह बोपाराय,1,मनीष मोहन गोरे,1,मनीष वैद्य,1,मनु स्मृति,1,मनोरंजक गणित,1,महिला दिवस,1,माचू-पिचू,1,मानव शरीर,1,माया,1,मारिजुआना,1,मासिक धर्म,1,मिल्‍की वे,1,मिशन स्टारडस्ट-नेक्स,1,मीठी गपशप,1,मीमांसा,1,मुख कैंसर,1,मृत सागर,1,मेघ राज मित्र,1,मेडिकल रिसर्च,1,मेरी शैली,1,मैथेमेटिक्स ओलम्पियाड,1,मैरी क्‍यूरी,2,मैरीन इनोवेटिव टेक्नोलॉजीज लि,1,मोटापा,1,मोबाईल के नुकसान,1,मौसम,1,यजुर्वेद,1,युवा अनुसंधानकर्ता पुरष्कार,1,यूरी गागरिन,1,योगेन्द्र पाल,1,योगेश,1,योगेश रे,1,रक्षा उपकरण,1,राईबोसोम,1,रूप गठन,1,रेडियो टोमोग्राफिक इमेजिंग,1,रैबीज,1,रोचक रोमांचक अंटार्कटिका,4,रोबोटिक्स,1,लखनऊ,1,लादेन,1,लालन-पालन,1,लिनक्स,1,लिपरेशी,1,लीप इयर,1,लेड,1,लॉ ऑफ ग्रेविटी,1,लोक विज्ञान,1,लौह स्तम्भ,1,वजन घटाने का आसान तरीका,1,वाई गुणसूत्र,1,वायु प्रदुषण,1,वाशो,1,विज्ञान,1,विज्ञान कथा,3,विज्ञान कथा सम्मेलन,1,विज्ञान के खेल,2,विज्ञान चुटकले,1,विज्ञान तथा प्रौद्यौगिकी,1,विज्ञान प्रगति,1,विज्ञान ब्लॉग,1,विज्ञापन,1,विटामिनों के वहम,1,विद्युत,1,विवेकानंद,1,विवेचना-व्याख्या,1,विश्व नि-तम्बाकू दिवस,1,विश्व पर्यावरण दिवस,1,विश्व भूगर्भ जल दिवस,1,विष्णु,1,वीडियो,1,वीडियो बुक,1,वैज्ञानिक दृष्टिकोण,1,वैद्य अश्विनी कुमार,1,वोस्तोक,1,व्‍यायाम के लाभ,1,व्हेलॉसिटी,1,शिव,1,शुक्र पारगमन,1,शुगर के दुष्‍प्रभाव,1,शून्य,1,शोध परिणाम,1,शोधन,1,श्रृष्टि का अंत,1,सं. राष्ट्रसंघ,1,सकारात्‍मक सोच का जादू,1,संक्रमण,1,संख्या,1,संजय ग्रोवर,1,संज्ञात्मक पक्षी विज्ञान,1,सटीक व्‍यायाम,1,संत बलबीर सिंह सीचेवाल,1,सत्यजित रे,1,समय की बरबादी को रोचकने के उपाय,1,समाज और हम,1,समुद्र,1,संयोग,1,सर चन्द्रशेखर वेंकट रमन राष्ट्रीय विज्ञान दिवस,1,सर्प संसार,1,साइकोलोजिस्ट,1,साइनस उपचार,1,साइंस ब्लागर्स मीट,1,साइंस ब्लागर्स मीट.,2,साइंस ब्लॉग कार्यशाला,2,साइंस ब्लॉगर्स असोसिएशन अवार्ड,1,साइंस ब्लॉगर्स असोसिएशन रजिस्ट्रेशन,1,साइंस ब्लॉगर्स ऑफ दि ईयर अवार्ड,1,साइंस ब्लोगिंग,1,साईकिल,1,सामवेद,1,सामाजिक अभिशाप,1,सामाजिक चेतना,1,साहित्यिक चोरी,2,सिगरेट छोड़ें,1,सी. एस. आई. आर.,1,सी.वी.रमण विज्ञान क्लब,1,सीजेरियन ऑपरेशन,1,सुपर अर्थ,1,सुपर कम्प्यूटर,1,सुरक्षित ब्लॉगिंग,1,सूर्यग्रहण,2,सृष्टि व जीवन,3,सेक्स रेशियो,1,सेहत की देखभाल,1,सोशल नेटवर्किंग,1,स्टीफेन हाकिंग,1,स्पेन,1,स्मृति,1,स्वर्ण अनुपात,1,स्वाईन-फ्लू,1,स्वास्थ्य,2,स्‍वास्‍थ्‍य और खानपान,1,स्वास्थ्य चेतना,3,हमारे वैज्ञानिक,4,हरित क्रांति,1,हंसी के फायदे,1,हाथरस कार्यशाला,1,हिंद महासागर,1,हृदय रोग,1,होलिका दहन,1,ह्यूमन रोबोट,1,
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Science Bloggers' Association of India: THE GREAT SMOG OF INDIA(EXCERPTS FROM THE BOOK )
THE GREAT SMOG OF INDIA(EXCERPTS FROM THE BOOK )
https://d1u4oo4rb13yy8.cloudfront.net/borermfmie-1541678562.jpg
Science Bloggers' Association of India
https://blog.scientificworld.in/2018/11/the-great-smog-of-indiaexcerpts-from.html
https://blog.scientificworld.in/
https://blog.scientificworld.in/
https://blog.scientificworld.in/2018/11/the-great-smog-of-indiaexcerpts-from.html
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