Environment

Strict legal action against burning hay straw not seen in Manipur

The unhealthy acts of straw stubble burning were not seen in the past. But hay stubbles today are burnt to save labour and wages.

ByNaorem Munal Meitei

Updated 17 Nov 2022, 7:02 pm

(Representational Image: Unsplash)
(Representational Image: Unsplash)

 

Now is the peak season for harvesting in Manipur. Everywhere, long spiral smog are seen rising from hay straw burning right from morning till late night. But hay straw burning is illegal and it affects soil fertility, moisture, organic matter, microbial population and is an air polluter, leading to environmental degradation.

The unhealthy acts of straw stubble burning were not seen in the past. On the harvesting day itself, people used to make bundle and collect in heaps and latter stacked in their homesteads for fodder and other purposes. But now people hardly rear cattle and due to lack of spaces, hay stubbles are burnt to save labour and wages. People also have lesser knowledge about the environmental impacts from the stubble burning. Thus, burning of straw at the harvesting site itself is a common practice in the state.

In absence of viable industries, agriculture is the main occupation in Manipur with about 80 per cent of the total population engaged in farming. Major part of the state’s domestic product and employment up to 22.13% (2011 census) of the work force are in agricultural sector. Out of 22,327 sq.km geographical area, 12.98% is used for cultivation and 52 per cent of it is confined in the valley. The total cultivated area of the state is about 2,89,500 ha in which about 82 per cent are utilised for paddy. 

A rough grain to straw ratio is about 1.0 to 1.5. In Manipur, the average rice yield is as high as 3.2 to 3.6 tons per ha or pari and the subsequent hay stubble production is about 5.7 tons. Therefore, our state produced 14,02,628 tons of hay stubble annually.

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Burning crop residue is a crime under Section 188 of the IPC and under the Air and Pollution Control Acts, 1981. National Green Tribunal directs all state governments to take up coercive and punitive action against the violators of stubble burning. The penalties are; farmers with below 2 acres land while on burning have to pay Rs 2500, 2 to 5 acres for Rs 5000 and more than 5 acres for Rs 15,000 as the environmental compensation.

But strict implementation is not seen anywhere and the sad part is farmers continue to burn and prefer to pay the fines because paying fines save them more than to keep the NGT norms. Therefore, it is important to diagnose and address the fundamental problems that force the farmers to burn the stumble without obeying the NGT guidelines in the national interest.

While on hay stubble burning, the loss of nutrients per ha amounts to 339 kg Nitrogen (N2), 6 kg Phosphorous(P), 140 kg Potassium (K) and 11 kg Sulphur (S) and many soil beneficial nutrients. Therefore with this rate, the total loss of nutrients in Manipur would be around 80.50 million tons N2, 1.42 million tons P, 33.22 million tons K and 2.61 million tons of Sulphur over and above many more important trace elements annually.

The heat while on straw burning penetrate about 1 cm into the soil, elevating the temperature from 33.8°C to 42.2°C killing the bacterial, fungal and earthworm populations which enhance soil fertility.

The amount of greenhouse gases emitted, when 1 ton of stubble is burnt are 2 kg of SO2, 60kg CO, 4-7 kg CH4, 1460 kg of CO2, 3 kg particulate matters and 199 kg of ash. These are the pollutants that hamper the climate which hindered our seasonal rainfall every year.

At the same time, if we could allow them to decompose without burning somewhere at a corner of the paddy field, then the soil could get back 156- 170 kg Nitrogen, 10.15 - 20.75 kg Phosphorus, 66 - 70 kg Potassium and 5 - 5.70 kg Sulphur from the hay straw of 1.25 acre paddy field. Thus, the total nutrients saving in Manipur would be around 113.6 million tons of NPKS annually.

While burning the heaps of stubble near trees along the roadside, valuable plants are also destroyed.

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To save hay straw, the state government may decide to establish industries which utilise hay stubble for various purposes, like producing ethanol, paper and packaging material, including hard boards, rough paper and fodder. The other method involves use of hay straw for biomass energy plants to generate electricity. In Punjab, 13 such plants have been established.

In Manipur also, we may innovate for such power generating plants which will surely reduce the environmental problems and social impacts.

Rearing of cattle is another option, because hay straw is a good fodder for cattle. We may also use Seeders Machines which can put the straw back into the earth to enhance the soil nutrients. Rice harvested with machines has better crushed and are easy to put back inside the soil. 

Mushroom cultivation also known as Protein cultivation is one of the most prospective eco-friendly practices to fight unemployment and malnutrition. Rice straw, which contains 41 per cent cellulose, 14 per cent lignin, 0.8 per cent nitrogen, 0.25 per cent P2O5, 0.3 per cent K2O, 6 per cent SiO2 and with pH 6.9 is best for mushroom cultivation.

The soil health is our future life. Therefore let’s not burn hay straw but utilize it to uplift our rural economy and to save the environment for the future generations.

(The views expressed are personal)

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First published:

Tags:

agriculturecultivationhay straw stubble burning

Naorem Munal Meitei

Naorem Munal Meitei

Environmentalist. May reach the author at nmunall@yahoo.in

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