The Impact of Stubble Burning on the Air Quality of North India

November 10, 2023
2 min read
The Impact of Stubble Burning on the Air Quality of North IndiaThe Impact of Stubble Burning on the Air Quality of North India

As winter sets in northern India, the beauty of clear blue skies is eclipsed by a persisting peril - the peak air pollution season. Starting in mid-October every year, Delhi and the rest of North India will be enveloped in a thick layer of smog, leaving millions to struggle for breath.

Why will this happen?

This dangerous spike in the Air Quality Index (AQI) is usually attributed to stubble burning.

Stubble burning is a traditional practice where the unwanted straw–left after harvesting grains like paddy and wheat– is set on fire to clear the field for the next sowing season. As important as it is for an agro-economy like India’s, it leads the way to an annual choking season when uncontrolled.

The burning leads to a chain of reactions that spikes the AQI around the capital city of Delhi to hazardous levels. Moreover, the pollutants (PM 2.5) released in the process stay trapped in the fog, creating dense visibility-reducing smog.

A single fire in one region thus becomes a huge public health concern in another.

In this study, we analyze the various impacts of stubble burning on air quality during the Kharif and Rabi (monsoon and winter crops) seasons with the help of Fire Radiative Power (FRP) and the number of fires across states.

Fire count distribution during Kharif season

Fire count distribution during Rabi season

By using satellite data and Ambee’s air quality data, we examine the interplay between agricultural practices, pollution, and policy effectiveness.

Download this paper to gain insights into why and how stubble burning impacts air quality in northern India and explore potential solutions and control measures.

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