Curbing Stubble Burning Could Reduce India’s Hypertension Rates, Other Pollution‑Related Health Problems: Report


Mar 2, 2021


Image Credit: Nayanika Chatterjee

Alternatives to stubble burning, a common agricultural practice in northern India, can reduce the prevalence of high blood pressure residents in the regions. This reduction in hypertension can save up to 91,000 lives and $2.25 billion (Rs. 16.5k crores) over five years, according to research published in SSM – Population Health.

The practice of stubble burning involves burning fields to remove crop residue from previous harvests. It is an economical means to help with weed removal and pest control, but its negative effects include severe air pollution, loss of soil nutrients, and potential forest fires. It is therefore regulated by governments.

Stubble burning was also a point of debate amid experts and citizens after a tweet from environmental activist Greta Thunberg in support of the farmer’s protest. While one side condemned Thunberg for siding with farmers who perpetuate severe air pollution, the other contested that further privatization of agricultural practices in India would only further push fertilizers, pesticides, and genetically modified seeds that harm the environment more. Such discussion highlights just how significant farmers and farming practices are to environmental policy, as they can contribute to climate change as well as experience its direct effects via their livelihood.

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Researchers found that individuals exposed to air pollution from crop burning 30 days prior to a check-up were more likely to have high blood pressure than those who weren’t exposed to the same. Since punitive measures and zero-tolerance policies have not helped reduce instances of crop burning in northern states, researchers suggest several alternatives.

They write, “India thus needs effective policies regarding regulation and management of biomass burning. The policy instruments should address the knowledge barrier in the adoption of new clean technologies for managing crop residue and they should provide greater financial support for buying new machinery.”

Researchers also advocated for more sustainable farming practices and financial incentives for the prevention of crop burning. “In addition to this farmers should be encouraged to sell their residue for alternative purposes like the use of rice pellets for power generation, use of stubble as fodder for cattle, etc,” they add.


Written By Aditi Murti

Aditi Murti is a culture writer at The Swaddle. Previously, she worked as a freelance journalist focused on gender and cities. Find her on social media @aditimurti.


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