A Climate and Clean Air Coalition project summary report: Impacts and Reduction of Open Burning in the Andes, Himalayas – and Globally...
Open agricultural burning is the world's fourth largest of source of black carbon emissions and one of the largest contributors to air pollution-related illnesses and deaths.
In Punjab, where 29% of India's rice and 46% of its wheat is grown, crop residue is most commonly burnt causing major air pollution episodes that affect the area and nearby states each harvest season. This is significant as Punjab makes up only 1.5% of India’s land area.
Open agricultural burning is widely used in other northern Indo-Gangetic Plain in other states, namely Haryana, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh, because it is a quick, easy and cheap method to clear and prepare a field . The area of paddy rice in Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh is around 3.0, 1.3, 5.8 and 0.18 million hectares, respectively. These four states produce on average 37-39 million tonnes of residue rice stubble. Punjab & Haryana alone account for around 28-29 million tonnes of residue rice stubble, 80% of which is burnt in the fields.
Rice straw is burnt because there is a very narrow window - approximately 20 days - between the harvesting and sowing of crops. The problem continues unabated in Punjab because most farmers are unaware of the ill-effects of open agricultural burning and are unable to afford the machinery needed to manage crop stubble.