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17 Mar 2015 | Atmosphere Initiative

Conference on alternatives to open agricultural burning

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To discuss the extent to which open burning of agricultural residue and waste causes black carbon emissions and to explore mitigation options, a two-day long conference titled ‘Mitigation of Emissions from Open Agricultural Burning in the Wider Himalayan Region’ was held from 20 to 21 February in Kathmandu, Nepal. The event was jointly organized by the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) and the International Cryosphere Climate Initiative (ICCI) with sponsorship from the Climate and Clean Air Coalition (CCAC).

During the conference, Dr Jessica McCarthy of Michigan Technological University presented the monthly maps of fire hotspots detected by the MODIS satellite sensors from 2003 and 2013. The maps show the location and timing of large agricultural fires.  Around the Himalayan region, burning is most prevalent in Bangladesh, Bhutan, China, India, Mongolia, Nepal, and Pakistan. Dr Arnico Panday from ICIMOD pointed out that while MODIS captures large fires under clear skies, it does not capture the small short-duration fires of piles of agricultural residue that are common across the HKH region.

In his presentation, Dr Svante Bodin from the ICCI stressed the importance of involving local communities in achieving environmental targets. He said that the CCAC scoping project in the Himalayan region would seek to “answer basic questions like where and when the burning take place, identify the crops that are being burned, the farmers’ reason/s for burning particular crops/lands, and possible alternatives.”

Experts from the region explored alternative methods and options to reduce open burning of the most common crops. They identified potential solutions such as conservation agriculture and other alternative agricultural practices, as well as the conversion of waste and residues to biogas, providing a local source of energy. Over 30 representatives of the scientific community, government officials, international organizations, farmers and farmer organizations, and other relevant experts in agriculture, air quality and health issues, adaptation and climate change participated in the conference.

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