A recent study has found that burning stubble, practiced in Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and surrounding regions, affect the air as far as the Arabian Sea and, to a lesser extent, the Bay of Bengal.
Smoke plumes from this region contain carbon aerosols that play a vital role in determining atmospheric chemistry. This affects air quality, ecosystem and even human health.
The study, conducted by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), found that this increases during October-November when farmers burn paddy stubble in their fields. “The study examined aerosol properties, smoke plume characteristics, long-range transport, and affected areas during paddy harvest period over the Indo-Gangetic Plains (IGP) using ground-based and satellite observations,” said Darshan Singh, senior scientist of the Punjabi University, Patiala, who is principal investigator in the study.
The increasing aerosols affect solar dimming, atmospheric heating and stability, monsoon circulation and hydro-logical cycle and contributes to pulmonary disease, bronchitis, and asthma. “The study signifies that pollution due to stubble burning from northern India is contributing heavily to environmental degradation not only
in north India but it is travelling as far as Bay of Bengal and particularly towards eastern and southern directions. Also, the increased carbon aerosols which have residing period of over 5-6 days in layer beneath atmosphere is alarming along with increased nitrogen oxide levels,” said Singh.
Depending upon the wind direction, the plumes also influence central India, the Arabian Sea and the Bay of Bengal, thus contributing to Asian pollution outflow, says the study.
The study notes that every year, during the post monsoon season (October-November), extensive agricultural (rice) crop residue burning takes place in the IGP, mainly in Punjab, Haryana, and western UP.
Another study by Punjab Remote Sensing Centre comparing active fire spots in 2014 and 2015 indicated 34 per cent decrease than last year. “The aerosols data for 2015 will take six months more to be compiled and if active fire spots have reduced, then carbon aerosols level should decrease hopefully,” Singh said.
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