“In the winter, it’s not just about fog; more is happening in the air.”
As autumn arrives, the air carries a hidden threat – the burning of crop residue or stubble burning. It is also known as “Parali” in Hindi. Also, this practice may seem like a routine agricultural activity; however, its health effects extend far beyond the fields.
Right now, the air quality in Delhi, India, is terrible; the World Health Organization says it is hazardous. Recent data by IQAir reveals that due to stubble or parali burning, small particles in the air called PM2.5 have shot up dangerously in the past week, making the already not-so-healthy air even worse.
In this blog, we will discuss why ”parali” burning is a big health issue and what we can do about it.
Before that, let’s first understand what parali is and why farmers burnt it.
What is Parali?
Parali is a term used in Hindi to refer to agricultural residue or crop stubble. It is the leftover plant material, such as stems, leaves, etc, after the main crop is harvested. Additionally, parali is commonly found in Northern India, particularly in Punjab and Haryana.
Farmers are left with the rice straw or parali in these regions after the rice harvest. Due to the short period between the rice harvest and the planting of the next crop, some farmers resort to burning parali as a quick method to clear these fields. This method may provide immediate benefits for farmers but also significantly impact the environment and, ultimately, living beings’ health.
How Parali Burning Impacts Our Health and Environment
Air Quality Deterioration
Parali burning releases various pollutants into the atmosphere, leading to a significant decline in the purity of the air. It releases a mixture of harmful substances. Such as:
- Particulate Matter
It includes tiny particles like dust, dirt, and ash suspended in the air. In the Parali burning, fine particulate matter can penetrate deep into the lungs when inhaled.
- Carbon Monoxide
It is a colorless, odorless gas released when there is incomplete combustion of organic materials. Inhaling carbon monoxide interferes with the body’s ability to transport oxygen. It leads to respiratory problems and can also affect individuals with pre-existing medical conditions like asthma.
- Other Harmful Substances
The smoke generated from parali burning contains toxic compounds such as volatile organic compounds and hazardous air pollutants. These substances can irritate the respiratory system and cause respiratory and cardiovascular diseases.
Besides, these harmful pollutants parali burning also cause the formation of brown clouds and fog that affect the air quality and atmospheric visibility.
These pollutants produced by parali burning can lead to respiratory problems. It included conditions like coughing, wheezing, and shortness of breath.
Aggravation of Asthma
Individuals with asthma may experience worsened symptoms due to the irritants released during stubble burning. It can lead to increased frequency and severity of asthma attacks.
Risk of Respiratory Infections
Prolonged exposure to the pollutants from stubble burning may increase the susceptibility to respiratory infections, especially in children and those with compromised immune systems.
The pollutants released can have adverse effects on the cardiovascular system. It can increase the risk of heart-related issues, especially in people with pre-existing conditions.
Eye and Skin Irritation
The smoke can irritate the eyes and skin, leading to discomfort and potential long-term effects on skin health.
7. Impact on Children’s Health
Children with developing respiratory systems are particularly vulnerable. Additionally, exposure to parali burning can hinder lung development and contribute to long-term respiratory issues.
8. Impact on the Elders Health
Older individuals, especially those with existing health concerns, may experience a worsening of health issues and an overall decline in well-being.
9. Environmental Health Concerns
Beyond health concerns, stubble burning contributes to environmental degradation. The release of greenhouse gases and air pollutants harms ecosystems, which affects biodiversity and soil health. Parali burning destroys the soil’s nutrients, making it less fertile.
Additionally, the heat generated by the stubble burning also leads to the loss of moisture and valuable microbes in the ground. It destroys and kills the natural nutrients and bacteria that help rejuvenate soil.
Why is Stubble or Parali Burning Still Being Practiced?
Despite its drawbacks, stubble burning continues in states like Punjab and Haryana. One primary reason is that farmers are deeply into this tradition and need help quickly letting go of this practice. The economic aspect also plays a role; farmers often switch between rice and wheat crops to boost their incomes. Thus, adapting new methods, especially modern eco-friendly residue management, is challenging for them. They are so used to their old ways, making learning new, more sustainable practices difficult.
Alternatives to Stubble or Parali Burning
Several alternatives to parali burning exist, which aim to provide environmentally friendly and sustainable solutions for farmers. Some of them are:
Bio Enzyme – PUSA
Instead of burning leftover crops, farmers can use a bio-enzyme called PUSA. Spraying it on the leftover crops starts breaking them down in about 20 to 25 days. That means the crop benefits the soil, like the plant food (manure). It improves the soil and helps save money on fertilizers for the next round of crops. So, instead of causing problems by parali burning, we can use this bio enzyme to make the soil healthier and cut down on costs for farmers.
You can dry rice plant leftovers and turn them into small pellets instead of burning leftovers. Mix these pallets with coal, and ta-da! You can use this mixture in power plants and factories to make energy. It’s like using the parali as a green fuel, which saves coal and pollutes less.
Rather than burning the stubble, we have this incredible Happy Seeder machine. It’s like a tractor with a special attachment. This machine cuts and picks up the old plants and plants new wheat seeds in the empty soil. After that, it puts the old plants back on the soil like a cozy blanket. So it’s a win-win: no burning, and we get a new crop without hurting the soil.
Besides, we can also use stubble or parali for cattle feed, roofing for rural areas, packing materials, paper making, compost manure, bioethanol, etc.
Frequently Asked Questions
Should Stubble Burning be Banned?
Considering the negative impact on air quality, living beings’ health, soil health, and fertility, and the contribution to winter smog, especially in Delhi, it seems reasonable to support efforts to ban stubble burning.
Are There Long-term Health Risks Associated With Stubble or Parali Burning?
Prolonged exposure to parali burning can increase the risk of respiratory and cardiovascular diseases. Children, elders, and people with pre-existing health conditions are particularly vulnerable to long-term health impacts.
How Can You Protect Yourself From the Health Effects of Stubble Burning?
To protect yourself when they’re burning crops, it’s a good idea to stay inside when it’s happening a lot. Using air purifiers at home and wearing masks outside can also help. It’s like putting on a shield against the smoky air. And you know what? Supporting farmers who use better ways to deal with leftover crops and telling others about these good ways is a big help, too.
How Does Parali Burning Affect Air Quality?
Parali burning releases many pollutants, such as particulate matter, carbon monoxide, and other contaminants, into the air, contributing to poor air quality. Inhaling these pollutants can lead to respiratory issues and worsen existing health conditions.
How is the Government Addressing the Health Effects of Parali Burning?
The government is making efforts by promoting awareness, implementing bans in certain regions, and encouraging the adoption of sustainable practices. The government is also exploring and supporting alternative uses for crop residues.
In the end, the health effects of burning parali are a big concern for people and the environment. Breathing in the harmful particles from this practice can seriously hurt our health, especially our lungs. But by choosing better ways to deal with leftover crops and ensuring everyone knows about the risks, we can make our air cleaner and keep ourselves healthy. It’s a team effort, and together, we can work towards a future without worrying about the harmful effects of parali burning.