Public debate over the quality of Delhi's air reliably spikes every winter, along with the readings from air quality monitors. However, public discussion tends to rapidly taper off, even as the air quality remains consistently bad.
The Initiative on Climate, Energy and Environment (ICEE) at the Centre for Policy Research (CPR) is organising a seminar series - Clearing the Air? Seminar Series on Delhi's Air Pollution - to promote sustained and informed public understanding around the data, impacts, sources and policy challenges involved in clearing Delhi's air. While we will focus on the Delhi context, the series will also reflect the fact that the problem extends far beyond Delhi. The seminar series will present the work of experts in a range of areas, to help promote informed public discussion about what changes are needed, what is possible, and how to get it done. Clearing the air in terms of knowledge and public information, we hope, will make a small contribution toward actually clearing Delhi's air.
About the talk:
The seminar series began with a talk on air pollutants in Indian cities and the gaps in our knowledge about them, followed by two events on health impacts of air pollution. We have now turned to specific sources of air pollution, and the last panel discussed emissions from transport. In the fifth event of this Seminar Series, we look at crop burning as a source of air pollution in the National Capital Region. By some estimates biomass burning, including seasonal burning of crop residue in Punjab, Haryana and parts of Uttar Pradesh, contributes 20% of the annual average particulate matter in the urban air shed of the region. While banning crop burning appears to be the straightforward solution, and one that has appealed to the courts, it is far from being easily implementable. Without cost effective alternatives to harvest and dispose the crop residue in time to sow for the next season, burning the residue is still the most viable option for many farmers, even if it significantly worsens the local and regional air quality.
The panel will explore the genesis of the problem, why it has become a particularly thorny issue in the last few years, and what are the possible technological interventions available? It will also discuss the key political, scientific, economic and social drivers that have to be considered while designing long-term solutions to the problem of crop burning.
About the speakers:
Dr M L Jat is a Senior Cropping Systems Agronomist and CIMMYT-CCAFS South Asia Coordinator in New Delhi and a fellow at the National Academy of Agricultural Sciences (NAAS). He has served as a senior scientist at the Directorate of Maize Research, New Delhi, and a scientist at Project Directorate for Cropping Systems Research along with heading international missions and holding many other key research positions at premium agriculture institutions in India. His research work is focussed on conservation agriculture, precision farming and climate smart agriculture and has a direct impact on improving livelihoods of farmers by providing viable farming options through policy recommendations.
Pritam Singh Hanjra is a resident of Urlana Khurd, District Panipat. Though not formally trained, agricultural scientists and experts have learnt from his field experiments, and the IARI has awarded him a Fellowship. A major innovation was reduction of water consumption by a third for Basmati rice cultivation.
Dr Rajbir Yadav is Principal Scientist, Division of Genetics, IARI, New Delhi. He is working on development of varieties of wheat, hybrids of maize and pearl millet keeping in view cropping system perspective and sustainability. Dr Yadav is carrying out a project on breeding for conservation agriculture, and has developed ten varieties of wheat, and three varieties of Indian mustard, two varieties of wheat for conservation agriculture.
Harish Damodaran is a veteran journalist who has worked with several prestigious newspapers and news agencies in India. He is currently the Rural Affairs and Agriculture Editor at The Indian Express. He has specialized in agri-business and commodities coverage. He is a recipient of the World Food Day Award from the UN Food & Agricultural Organization and the Indian Association for the Advancement of Science in recognition of his work as a farm reporter.
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CPR's ICEE produces research, informs public opinion and generates debate on climate, energy and environment policy at international, national and sub-national levels. Our goal is to enhance policy outcomes through informed research and policy dialogue within India and internationally.