Air pollution is causing irreparable damage to the country’s well-being. On average, citizens of India have their life expectancy cut short by 5.3 years due to air pollution. In 2017, air pollution caused around 12.4 lakh deaths in India. 1800 primary schools were closed temporarily due to poor air quality posing a major health hazard. Moreover, the cost of serious health consequences from particulate pollution is estimated at 3 percent of India’s GDP. In 2016, CII collaborated with NITI Aayog to research and identify key sources of air pollution in Delhi- NCR.
Transportation, industries, and domestic sources were the three key sources identified as major sources of pollution. To galvanize action to combat air pollution, three task forces were formed. Action plans were prepared for Biomass Management, Clean Fuel, and Clean Transportation. The reports of these were released in February 2017. Taking the learnings from the Biomass Management report, CII initiated a pilot intervention to manage the crop residues in Punjab.
Crop Residue Management Initiative by CII
To help farmers undertake better crop residue management practices, CII has undertaken an on-ground intervention in 100 villages in Punjab and Haryana. It covers 1,00,000 acres of farm area to enable zero crop residue burning. CII is adopting a multi-pronged and community-driven approach through field action, behavior change communication, mass awareness, and research and knowledge dissemination. This means a 360-degree approach to finding a solution to the issue of stubble burning. Through this initiative, CII has developed an ecosystem for different stakeholders. Stakeholders can collaborate and test various technological solutions and business models. It is doing this to resolve the issue of stubble burning and air pollution caused by it.
The CII intervention this year is an expansion of the pilot project in 2018. This covered 19 villages and saw more than 80% of farmers adopting alternate methods to stubble burning. Over 75% of the total area under paddy in the adopted villages, became free of stubble burning in 2018, compared to a mere 3.5% of farmland in 2017! About 25,000 tonnes of rice straw was recycled back into the soil under the project. 115-tonne fine particulate matter (PM2.5) was saved from being released into the air.
Launched in 2018, CII Foundation undertook the pilot intervention in 19 villages and 16000
acres of farmland in Punjab, engaging over 3000 farmers. The impact of the intervention was encouraging. Post the intervention, 80% of farmers adopted no stubble burning approach. A total of 12,000 acres of farmland (75% of the total area under paddy in the adopted villages) became free of stubble burning in 2018, compared to 550 acres (3.5% of farmland) in 2017.
Results of the work done
About 25,000 tonnes of rice straw was recycled back into the soil under the project. This led to avoidance of environmental impacts on local, regional and global scales. Nutrient savings were worth more than INR 1 crore. This also improved farmer’s resilience to adverse impacts of climate change due to water conservation, improved farm biodiversity, and resilience of crops to extreme climatic events.
These results show that the problem of stubble burning can be tackled while making farming more sustainable and economically beneficial to farmers. Based on the findings and learnings of the pilot intervention, CII gave its recommendations to the PMO recently.
Encouraged by the inspiring response of pilot intervention, CII is expanding the program in a multi-stakeholder partnership to 100 villages in 2019. The spread is across districts of Ludhiana, Barnala, Patiala, and Sangrur in Punjab and Rohtak, Sirsa and Fatehabad in Haryana. Farmer Producer Organizations and Farmer Cooperatives are actively supporting this initiative. CII is adopting a multi-pronged approach to make the adopted villages free from the practice of stubble burning through field action, behavior change communication and mass awareness, and research & knowledge management.
Implemented with the support of numerous stakeholders, including Punjab Agricultural University, Punjab Pollution Control Board and Department of Agriculture and Farmer Welfare, Government of Punjab the initiative aims to make the adopted villages free from the practice of stubble burning. CII Foundation has partnered with several industry players. These include Cummins, BPCL, Birlasoft, ONGC, Royal Enfield, ReNew Power, RAU Study Circle, CLP India, and the industry association Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (SIAM) to promote ground-level action in Punjab and Haryana against the menace of stubble burning that is causing major environmental concern in the region.
Contributed by Neha, CII Foundation