NCR Pollution and Agriculture – UPSC GS3

Why pollution in NCR?
  • Geographical factors: In winter, the wind slows down and temperature drops that result in accumulation of suspended Particulate Matter (PM).
  • Human factors: congested traffic, dust, construction, waste-burning, power generation, firecrackers.
  • Burning of paddy stubble: can vary from 1% to 42% of the total pollution as per The System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting And Research (SAFAR) readings.
  • Increasing ammonia hotspots: due to fertilizer use, animal husbandry; ammonia can account for a quarter to a third of particulate matter pollution even in urban settings.
  • Excessive use of Urea: Urea, while being the cheapest form of fertilizer, is volatile in nature, leading to nitrogen loss.
  • System of subsidies and open-ended procurement: Free power and water, along with open-ended procurement despite bulging stocks, have attracted paddy cultivation.
Effect of pollution on Agriculture:
  • Losses in crop yield: According to some estimates, 30 % of India’s wheat yield is missing due to the two pollutants
  • Ozone damages plant cells and handicaps photosynthesis.
  • Particulate matter dims the sunlight that reaches crops.
Ways to reduce Agriculture related pollution:
  • Diversification of crops: A diversification package of Rs 10,000 crore spread over the next five years, equally contributed by the Centre and states shall be introduced.
  • Provide investment subsidies instead of input subsidies: E.g. for the conversion of paddy areas to some other crops like orchards, vegetables and corn, that are more sustainable.
  • Diversification should be based on demand-led: with a holistic framework of the value chain, from farm to fork.
  • Encourage the private sector in building value chains.
  • Change subsidy mechanism: Give farmers input subsidy in cash on per hectare basis; this will be a crop-neutral way, making agriculture demand-driven and saving costs of carrying excessive stocks.
  • Restriction in Government procurement: Restrict the  Government procurement of paddy from farmers burning stubble in their fields.
Conclusion: Taken together, these measures could double farmers’ incomes, promote efficiency in resource use, and reduce pollution — a win-win solution for all.
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