A farmer in Chandigarh burning paddy husks after a harvest. Stopping the burning of such stubble could improve air quality in Delhi by 90%, according to a 2016 study.

Farmers outside India’s capital have started to burn the post-harvest straw from their fields, heralding the onset of north India’s toxic-air season. Stopping the burning of such straw, or stubble, and other biomass could improve air quality in Delhi by 90%, according to a 2016 apportionment study by the Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur.

Stubble burning was banned in 2015 by the National Green Tribunal (NGT), India’s apex court on matters concerning the environment.

While the NGT asked Punjab, Haryana, Delhi, Rajasthan & UP to enforce the ban on agriculture crop-residue burning in 2015 (with fines ranging from Rs 2,500 for landowners, with less than two acres, to Rs 15,000 for farmers with over five acres, per incident of crop burning) the burn continues.

Farmers have said that removing stubble from farms is expensive, and not economically viable without state support.

To change that, on October 13, the NGT ordered Punjab, Uttar Pradesh and Haryana to name biomass energy plants and other industries that could use crop residue as fuel and asked these states to ensure farmers got equipment to remove stubble at low or no cost depending on their financial and land owning capacity.

We storified a thread of tweets put out on October 16, 2017, to tell you how the stubble-burn affects the air over Delhi.

(Patil is an analyst with IndiaSpend.)

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