By: N. Munal Meitei
Now is the peak season for harvesting in Manipur. Everywhere long spiral smog are seen from hay straw burning right from morning till late night. But straw burning is illegal and it affects soil fertility, moisture, organic matter, microbial population and worst air polluter leading to the environmental degradation.
The unhealthy acts of stubble burning were not seen in the past. On the harvesting day itself, people used to make bundle & collect in heaps and latter stacked in their homesteads for fodder and other purposes. But now people hardly rear the cattle and also due to lack of spaces, hay stubble are burnt to save labour and wages. People also have less knowledge about the environmental impacts from the stubble burning. Thus, burning 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% of the total populations. Major part of 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% of it is confined in the valley. The total cultivated area of the state is about 2,89,500 ha in which about 82% are utilized 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.
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 for coercive and punitive action to 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. 15000 as the environmental compensation. But strict implementation is not seen everywhere and the sad part is the farmers still burnt 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 heap up stubble near to the trees along the roadside also kill the valuable plants.
To save hay straw, state government may decide to establish the industries which utilize the 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, thirteen 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 putt 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% cellulose, 14% lignin, 0.8% nitrogen, 0.25% P2O5, 0.3% K2O, 6% SiO2 and with pH 6.9 is best for mushroom cultivation.
The soil health is our future life. Therefore let’s not burn the hay straw but utilize it to uplift our rural economy and to save the environment for the future generations.
(The author is a Environmentalist, [email protected])
Burning Hay Straw is a suicidal for Environment
By: N. Munal Meitei