14 Aug 2020 | Atmosphere Initiative

A burning problem

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Crop residue burning affects public health and contributes to regional pollution and global warming.

A burning problem

Farmers across the Indo-Gangetic Plain periodically burn post-harvest biomass and excess vegetation in fields, mostly in preparation for sowing the next crop. This results in local and regional air pollution, affecting atmospheric and cryospheric processes, public health, ecosystems, transport, and agriculture.

A multi-sectoral approach to identifying and alleviating the drivers and adverse impacts of crop reside burning can help promote alternative practices. Our studies in the Nawalparasi, Rupandehi, and Kapilvastu districts of Nepal – where the process has become increasingly common in recent years as a quick, cheap way to clear fields post-harvest – indicate regulations need to be devised at both local and national levels. Government and non-governmental stakeholders also need to promote appropriate agricultural mechanization, identify ways to minimize postharvest stubble, and harness alternative uses of the post-harvest straw.

For regulations to be effective, they need to be accompanied by greater awareness about crop residue burning and its implications and drivers, as well as more efficient crop residue management practices. This knowledge is vital for all farming communities, and especially for women who are custodians of their farms and communities.

Improved government and stakeholder comprehension about crop residue burning, and its implications and drivers is necessary for the practice to be gradually reduced.

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