THE GIST of Editorial for UPSC Exams : 30 October 2020 Less pollution, more soil fertility(The Hindu)

Less pollution, more soil fertility(The Hindu)

Mains Paper 3: Environment 
Prelims level: Stubble burning 
Mains level: Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment


  • Stubble burning refers to the practice of farmers setting fire to plant debris that remain in farms after harvest.
  • Before the 1980s, farmers used to till the remaining debris back into the soil after harvesting the crops manually.
  • The origin of stubble burning can be traced to the advent of the Green Revolution and mechanized harvesting, which utilised the combined harvesting technique.

Environmental impact:

  • Stubble burning is practised predominantly by farmers in north India.
  • It releases harmful gases including nitrogen oxide and carbon monoxide into the atmosphere.
  • In recent years, this practice has created vast smoke blankets across the Indo-Gangetic Plain and numerous neighbouring States, including Delhi.
  • This directly exposes millions of people to air pollution.
  • As per a TERI (The Energy and Resources Institute) report, in 2019 the air pollution in New Delhi and other parts of north India was 20 times higher than the safe threshold level as prescribed by the World Health Organization.
  • Stubble burning also has a deleterious impact on soil fertility, destroys organic fertilizers and reduces ground water levels.
  • Stubble burning during a pandemic could worsen the situation by making lungs weaker and people more susceptible to disease.
  • It could also impact those recovering from infection.

New revolution:

  • A revolution in timely stubble removal is the need of the hour.
  • The action plan of Punjab and Haryana appears to focus more on setting up Custom Hiring Centres which will facilitate farmers removing stubble by providing them with machinery such as the happy seeder, rotavator, paddy straw chopper, etc. on rent along with the supply of more balers.
  • As per a study by the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Centre, the application of happy seeders and super SMS machines can improve agricultural productivity by 10% to 15% while reducing labour costs and allowing the soil to become more fertile.
  • This year, the Union government is testing an innovative method, the PUSA Decomposer, developed at the Indian Agricultural Research Institute, Pusa.
  • The PUSA Decomposer is a set of four tablets made by extracting fungi strains that help the paddy straw to decompose at a much faster rate than usual, giving farmers the option to shred the straw, spray a solution containing the fungal strains, and mix it with the soil for decomposition.


  • If methods such as this become successful, it will be a new revolution in farming. This has the potential to both reduce air pollution and increase soil fertility.

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Prelims Questions:

Q.1) With reference to the Kala Sanskriti Vikas Yojana (KSVY), consider the following statements:
1. Kala Sanskriti Vikas Yojana (KSVY) is an umbrella scheme under Ministry of Culture for the promotion of art and culture in the country.
2. Scheme of Financial Assistance for Creation of Cultural Infrastructure is a sub-scheme under the ‘Kala Sanskriti Vikas Yojana’ (KSVY).
Which of the statements given above is/are correct?
(a) 1 only
(b) 2 only
(c) Both 1 and 2
(d) Neither 1 nor 2

Answer: C

Mains Questions:

Q.1) What are the environmental impacts of stubble burning? What are the new mechanisms are adopted recently in this regard?