1. Agriculture World

Shocking! Air Pollution Costs India $30 Billion a Year from Stubble Burning

Tooba Maher
Tooba Maher
stubble burning

According to a study scheduled to be published in the forthcoming issue of the International Journal of Epidemiology, respiratory ailments related with crop residue burning in North India lead to an estimated economic loss of over $30 billion or ₹2 lakh crore annually. 

The study also indicated that there has been a substantial rise in acute respiratory infections reported during the period in which stubble burning was intense. 

The study, which was from India’s fourth round of District Level Household Survey (DLHS-4), found that there was a three-fold increase in respiratory ailments among those living in districts where intense crop burning takes place. 

During the winter months, Poor air quality is a serious problem in Delhi with the levels of airborne particulate matter spiking to 20 times the World Health Organization’s safety threshold during certain days. 

Increase in Air pollution: 

Samuel Scott, the co-author and research fellow at the Washington, DC-based International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) said, “Among other factors, smoke from the burning of agricultural crop residue by farmers in Haryana and Punjab especially contributes to Delhi’s poor air, increasing the risk of ARI three-fold for those living in districts with intense crop burning.”  

However, the study for the first time estimated the health and economic costs of crop residue burning in North India. The estimated economic cost of exposure to air pollution from crop residue burning is $30 billion or nearly ₹2 lakh crore annually for Punjab, Haryana and Delhi, according to the scientists. 

Likewise, as per another study published in the journal Nature Sustainability last week, nearly 60% of sooty carbon particles found in Delhi’s air in October and November months emanate from crop residue burning in the neighbouring States. 

Apart from Scott, other people involved in the current study were Avinash Kishore and Devesh Roy of IFPRI, Suman Chakrabarti of the University of Washington, and Mohammed Tajuddin Khan of Oklahoma State University. 

The study analysed health data from more than 250,000 individuals of all ages living in rural and urban areas in India. It used NASA satellite data on fire activity to estimate the health impact of living in areas with intense crop burning and also comparing them with areas not affected by burning like in the South Indian States of Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu.  

The study used data between September 2013 and February 2014. Though, the researchers observed that as crop burning increased in Haryana, respiratory health worsened. Other factors were also examined that could contribute to poor respiratory health such as firecracker burning during Diwali (which usually coincides with the time of crop burning) and motor vehicle density. 

Though, economic losses due to exposure to air pollution from firecracker burning are estimated to be around $7 billion or nearly ₹50,000 crore a year. 

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