In recent years, we have seen changes in weather and environment patterns which are leading to new challenges in sustainability. Air pollution today is impacting the country’s well-being. According to a report of State of Global Air 2019, exposure to air pollution contributed to over 1.2 million deaths in India in 2017. Every three minutes a child dies in India because of inhaling toxic pollutants in the air, according to an analysis of the Global Burden of Disease 2017.
To help farmers undertake sustainable farm practices and reduce air pollution, CII has adopted both in-situ and ex-situ management of straw in 100 villages and 1,00,000 acres of farmland in the districts of Ludhiana, Patiala and Barnala in Punjab, and Rohtak, Sirsa and Fatehabad in Haryana.
We are creating an ecosystem to engage stakeholders including experts, corporates, state governments and farmer groups to find optimal solutions to the issue of stubble burning. CII is proactively working with over 15,000 farmers to provide farm machinery, organize technical trainings and conduct massive awareness drives in the adopted villages of Punjab and Haryana. Air quality monitors have been installed to monitor village level air pollution data, to measure the impact of reduced stubble burning.
To mitigate the effect of stubble burning, it is important that we work with the farmers and understand their on-ground challenges. Purchasing individual in-situ machines, to be used within the short period of 10 days, does not make a profitable case for small and marginal farmers. There is a need to create an enabling ecosystem with farmer producer organizations (FPOs) and farmer cooperative groups to help all farmers get access to these machines.
CII is not only providing access to in-situ machines like Happy Seeder, Zero Till, Mulcher, MB Plough, Rotavator, etc, but also organizing a series of trainings in partnership with the Punjab Agricultural University, Haryana Agricultural University, District Agriculture Offices of Department of Agriculture and Farmer Welfare and Krishi Vigyan Kendras. It is a win-win situation for farmers and the environment for not burning crop residue. A farmer, who chooses to use farm machines, can not only expect a better yield, but benefits from reduced fertilizer and irrigation requirements in the field.
Beyond in-situ solutions, CII has undertaken in-depth research and pilot projects have been undertaken on ex-situ management of crop residue. Potential ex-situ solutions like converting straw into biogas, bio-fertilizers, etc are being piloted in the field.
CII is also doing a sectoral study of the straw value chain including analysis of domestic, agricultural & commercial uses of straw, and potential business models for rural entrepreneurs, SMEs, start-ups, etc. The research will help develop a roadmap for improving the straw value chain, which at this moment is at a nascent stage.
In 2018, CII Foundation undertook a pilot intervention in 19 villages and 16,000 acres of farmland in Punjab, engaging over 3,000 farmers. The impact of the intervention was encouraging.
Post the intervention, 80% farmers adopted ‘no stubble burning’ approach and 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 farm land) in 2017. About 25,000 tonne of rice straw was recycled back into the soil under the project.
This not only led to avoidance of environmental impact on local, regional and global scale but also led to nutrient savings worth more than INR 1 crore and 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 make a strong case that the problem of stubble burning can be tackled while making farming more sustainable and economically beneficial to farmers.
With our intervention, this year, of the 1,920 acres of farmland harvested so far in our intervened geography, 95% has been stubble burning free. CII, with the support of industry members, is now on the job to make 1,00,000 acres of farmland stubble burning free. Over 3000 school students in Punjab, and youth and corporate volunteers are joining CII in this movement.
With each stakeholder joining the initiative and strengthening the collaborative action on zero stubble burning, we build on the #Karwaan4SwachhHawa and move yet another step to enable a Cleaner Air, Better Life for all.