Stubble Burning: The major cause of the poor air quality in Delhi

New Delhi has become one of the most polluted cities on the planet again.
New Delhi has become one of the most polluted cities on the planet again.


New Delhi has become one of the most polluted cities on the planet again.

The main reason for the air pollution in the national capital region is the burning of stubble.

Stubble burning is a major contributor to Delhi's deteriorating air quality. The data from the Commission on Air Quality Management report suggests. 

Stubble refers to the left stalk of wheat, rice, or any other crop after it has been harvested. 

The stubble is hard to remove with hands, so fire is put to burn them, which releases a lot of smoke, deteriorating the air quality of that area and nearby regions are also affected by it.

Due to the wind movements, the smoke from the burned stubble of Haryana and Punjab enters the National Capital Region and mainly pollutes the environment of the Indian capital, New Delhi. 

Stubble burning contributed about 38% to the air pollution level on 8 November, according to the data presented during a meeting chaired by the cabinet secretary on Wednesday.

Delhi’s air quality index (AQI) has remained in the ‘severe’ category, with AQI around 407 at 0710pm today.


As per the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), an AQI between zero and 50 is considered ‘good’, 51 and 100 ‘satisfactory’, 101 and 200 ‘moderate’, 201 and 300 ‘poor’, 301 and 400 ‘very poor’, and 401 and 500 ‘severe’.


From 15 September to 7 November, a total of 22,644 stubble burning events were recorded, out of which 20,978 (93%) were in Punjab and 1,605 (7%) in Haryana. Harvesting is more than 90% complete in Haryana whereas it is 60% complete in Punjab.

The report data shows that the stubble is mainly burned in the two states of India - Punjab and Haryana. 

“The burning of farmland between crop cycles is a pervasive problem across northern India, which has a significant environmental impact and a heavy human cost. One of the many causes of stubble burning is the lack of availability of stubble removal equipment like super-seders and balers at the right time, and the burnt is mostly faced by small and marginal farmers," said Viral Thakker, partner and sustainability leader, Deloitte India.

The union government has so far released ₹3,333 crore under the Crop Residue Management (CRM) scheme, of which ₹1,531 crore was released to Punjab and ₹1,006 crore to Haryana.


Nearly 1.20 lakh seeder machines are available under the CRM Scheme in Punjab and 76,000 in Haryana. Optimum utilization of these machines could have prevented stubble burning to such a large extent. State governments of Punjab and Haryana were directed to make full use of available seeder machines to prevent further stubble burning, according to a government statement.

Stubble burning releases harmful pollutants into the air and can cause respiratory problems, heart disease, and cancer. It can also damage crops and ecosystems

“The government can ban stubble burning altogether, with strict penalties for violators. Additionally, it can establish stubble management zones in areas where stubble burning is a major problem and give financial incentives to farmers," suggested Shailendra Singh Rao, founder of Creduce, an Indian knowledge and technology-based service provider in the environment and climate change mitigation domain.

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