○Research Subject and Objectives
“Stubble burning in North India and its effects on air pollution”
Large-scale burning of rice straw (mostly stubble; “stubble burning” hereafter) from October to November in the Indian states of Punjab and Haryana is attracting worldwide attention as a contributor to air pollution in the city of Delhi1 as well as the wider region of the Indo-Gangetic Plain (IGP)2,3,4, which threatens residents’ health1,5-7. Furthermore, black carbon emitted from the stubble burning is possibly being deposited in the snow and ice of the Himalayas, promoting melting snow and ice8-13, which would affect climate change on a non-negligible scale.
The Indian Punjab region, situated in a semi-arid zone with insufficient precipitation, was originally not suitable for intensive cultivation14. Traditional agriculture in the Punjab region originally consisted of mixed farming: a combination of cultivating wheat and raising livestock (cattle). Development of irrigation canals changed the region into a granary under the British government in India. Since the 1960s, after the so-called “Green Revolution” developed, high grain production came to be highlighted as the key to support India’s explosive population growth14. Currently, cropping systems dominantly focus on growing two crops a year: wheat and rice15,16. However, excess cultivation in the region has caused serious problems such as a decline in groundwater reserves16-18, air pollution due to the burning of rice straw1,2-7, and deterioration of the soil’s fertility16. Recently, the stubble burning has been linked with the worsening air quality in the densely populated National Capital Region of Delhi (Delhi-NCR)19. This issue is an example of how the changing agricultural system can threaten our public health and human well-being by polluting the air which is essentially important for our life.
Historically, most of the rice seedlings were transplanted before the onset of monsoon. The Punjab Preservation of Subsoil Water Act and the Haryana Preservation of Subsoil Water Act were promulgated in March 2009 and transplanting before June 20 was prohibited. These groundwater conservation policies exacerbated the air pollution in Delhi by concentrating agricultural burning in the late fall when weather condition becomes more stagnated in Delhi. Farmers have to manage rice straw in the narrow window period between rice-harvest and wheat-seeding, which can be a factor to increase stubble burning20.
The final goal of this study is to reduce stubble burning in North India. We pursue a pathway of social transformation toward clean air, public health and sustainable agriculture to achieve the goal.
Project Structure and Methodology of Research
To tackle this problem, three working groups are organized (Figure 1 in section 4). All working groups will examine various measures to change farmers behavior, and community, stakeholders and government as well.
The members of Working Group 1 cover agro-economics, soil science, human geography, and cultural anthropology. Their task is to examine incentives promoting farmers’ behavioral changes and various options of alternative straw uses. Both technical and socioeconomic advantages/disadvantages are investigated for technologies such as a “Happy Seeder” or various types of balers through experimental work with local universities, and alternative options of straw use such as fodder for livestock or composting are examined considering the cultural background. Our research achievements will help to create new business models that fit to sustainable agriculture in this region.
Working Group 2 consists of members of atmospheric science and remote sensing, and they will challenge to quantify the effects of stubble burning in Punjab on air quality in Delhi utilizing observation data and model simulations. This work is essentially important because the arguments on the effects of stubble burning on Delhi’s air pollution still lacks scientific foundation, which is causing a confusion among communities. Especially, lack of the monitoring data for pollutants in the Punjab and neighboring states is a bottleneck in this problem, and therefore we'll set up a few hundred compact instruments to monitor ambient PM2.5 and determine pollutants emissions from stubble burning by using model simulations coupled with satellite and in-situ measurements. It is possible to separate the effects of stubble burning from other various pollution sources near Delhi by a combined use of atmospheric models and satellite information on burning places. The obtained results will be visualized on smartphones and shared with local people via internet to promote people’s awareness.
Working Group 3 consists of members of epidemiology and public health. The WG3 members will conduct health education class “Air and Health” in Punjab villages for the residents to increase awareness of their own health. We’ll also collect individual health data by a smartphone applications and members of medical doctors will consult and examine children and women to test their pulmonary function, using a peak flow meter, for example. We will follow up how the residents’ perception and awareness of air pollution and their own health will change after the health surveys and the health education classes. The advantage of our research plan is that we can take individual data of PM2.5 exposure called “PM2.5 diary”, which can be used to evaluate the total exposure to PM2.5 of the residents.
In the first year of the project, we will conduct a wide-scale questionnaire survey across the entire state of Punjab based on the list of voters. The questionnaire includes questions on basic livelihood information, agricultural practices, stubble burning (and reasons for the same), incentives required to stop stubble burning, and some more questions to clarify the cultural and economic background and health conditions of the farmers in Punjab. In particular, the simultaneous survey on health, including respiratory diseases and medical treatment, is important. Based on the survey result, we will select some villages/areas to conduct more intensive surveys. The results of these surveys will be utilized in the research subjects in later years.
1) Evaluation of possible options and incentives for farmers to reduce the burning of rice straw.
2) Quantification of the effect of stubble burning in Punjab and Haryana on air quality in Delhi-NCR. Encourage public awareness on air pollution through scientific basis.
3) Clarification of the overall risk of PM2.5 and possible factors affecting health risk.
Contribution to the program
This study, pursuing a pathway of social modification toward sustainable societie, meets the goal of the Program 1. The study also contributes to the aim of the Program 1 by conducting transdisciplinary research in cooperation with various stakeholders.
○Progress and Results in 2019
Progress during FS period (April to July, 2019) & PR period (August 2019 to date)
1. Each working group had meetings on literature reviewpromoting mutual understanding among project members from different academic disciplines. As one of the achievements of such activities, Haruhisa Asada published a bookchapteron the topic of stubble burning and air pollution (in Japanese).
2. Three task teams were organized to cope with many different subjects flexibly. Each team had skype/e-mail meetings and proceeded with work as below.
ü Questionnaire Team: Create questionnaire items, Prepared for the survey.
⇨ Questionnaire items were completed. Questionnaire survey is ready to be held in all Punjab districts in spring 2020.
ü PM2.5 Team: Install CUPIs (Compact and Useful PM2.5 Instruments), and Manage monitoring data obtained by CUPIs
⇨Installed about ten CUPIs in Delhi city and the states of Punjab and Haryana. In Delhi, data have been accumulated for the past three years, and were analyzed systematically (paper in preparation). Another several ten CUPIs were fabricated and prepared for installation in the fields. All data monitored in Delhi-NCR and in the state of Punjab by the center or local government were collected and visualized, and shared among members on the google drive.
(Note that CUPI was well validated by comparison with a standard instrument BAM21, which shows a decisive superiority to other compact sensors.)
ü Indoor Pollution Team: Planning of investigation of Indoor pollution.
3. Survey of the stubble burning in Punjab in October to November 2019
This year, stubble burning events in the states of Punjab and Haryana were more severe than the last year. From the articles of local newspaper in Punjab, Tribune,we learned air pollution worsened badlyin rural villages in Punjab as in urban cities. It was reported that many farmers were booked for burning stubbles and some of them were arrested, and they protested to the local government furiously. We can easily perceive serious conflict between farmers and local government. Subsidies from Indian government for promoting introduction of new agricultural machines (Happy Seeder and others) did not work efficiently. On Nov. 7, the Supreme Court decided to pay bounty to the farmers who stopped stubble burning. Local farmers seem to accept this decision positively.
In late October and early November 2019, six project members explored some villages in the Punjab state to investigate farmers’ behavior on stubble burning. At Latala Village, Ludhiana, farmers complained that cultivation with a Happy Seeder decreased the yield of wheat, as roots of rice hinder the wheat buds from coming up. To avoid stubble burning without using a Happy Seeder, farmers spend time and effort; farmers use a cutter first, then a mulcher followed by a rotavator to seed the fields with wheat. At another village (Jaladiwal), farmers also complained that Happy Seeders reduced the wheat yield. They were very frustrated with the government because they impose the policies on farmers without considering the effects on the yield. In particular, they are protesting the groundwater conservation act by Punjab state government because they don’t have enough time to manage rice straw before seeding wheat. On the other hand, some other farmers were claiming that a Happy Seeder does not reduce the yield when used properly.
As described above, there are opinions on the pros and cons of the Happy Seeder. We are planning to experiment on non-tillage cultivation of wheat using a Happy Seeder in the field at Lovely Professional University (LPU) and Punjab Agricultural University (PAU). Four members (K. Inubushi, S. Sudo, E. Nishihara, and S. Hayashida) are going to visit LPU and PAU to discuss a specific experiment plan on February 19-21.
4. Promotion of research partnership agreements
On Nov. 1stand 2nd, 2019, “Indo- Japan ColloquiumonAir Pollution in Indo-Gangetic Plains and Human Health: Future Directions” was heldby the research teams of Department of Community Medicine and School of Public Health (PGIMER), Chandigarh in collaboration with Department of Environment Studies, Panjab University, Chandigarh. Four Japanese members (K. Ueda, T. Umemura, Y. Matsumi, and T. Nakayama) attended the colloquium and agreed to collaborate under the Aakash project. A national newspaper, Times of India (Chandigarh) reported our collaborative work (Figure 2 in section 9).
5. Progress on the work on separation of the effect of stubble burning on Delhi air pollution from other sources
Transport pathways and the mean transit time from the fire hotspots were evaluated using the FLEXPART （FLEXible PARTicle dispersion model）. The results revealed the air pollution in Delhi was definitely influenced by the stubble burning in Punjab region (including the state of Punjab and part of the state of Haryana, and Punjab in Pakistan) (Takigawa et al., SOLA, 2020. accepted in April, 2020). This result shows our potential to separate the effects of stubble burning on air pollution from the effects from other sources.
In November 2019, S. Hayashida and Y. Matsumi met Mr. Suresh Kumar, the Chief Principal Secretary to Chief Minister, Punjabat his official residencein Chandigarh. He suggested us to organize an India-Japan joint conference as early as possible.
According to his suggestion, we prepared an India-Japan conference on March 28, 2020 in Delhi, which was unfortunately cancelled due to COVID-19 outbreak.
Most Notable Output to Date
1) Haruhisa Asada has published a book on stubble burning and air pollution based on his literature survey under the project. 1: Haruhisa Asada （2020）「Yoyu suru shizen to shakai: Indo no taikiosen wo jirei ni (溶融する自然と社会—インドの大気汚染を事例に)」．(In Japanese).
2) Yutaka Matsumi and his collaborators installed considerable numbers of CUPI into the areas and those sensors revealed significant air pollution in those areas. (Othman, M., M. T. Latif, Y. Matsumi 2019, The exposure of children to PM2.5 and dust in indoor and outdoor school classrooms in Kuala Lumpur City Centre, Ecotoxicology and Environmental Safety, 170, 2019, 739-749, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ecoenv.2018.12.042.)
3) Mizuo Kajino, Sachiko Hayashida have been challenging to apply satellite data to ozone pollution detection. Their innovative paper was published in Scientific Report. (Kajino, M., Hayashida, S., Sekiyama, T.T. et al. Detectability assessment of a satellite sensor for lower tropospheric ozone responses to its precursors emission changes in East Asian summer. Sci Rep 9, 19629 (2019) doi:10.1038/s41598-019-55759-7)
4) The activity of WG3 was reported in the newspaper in Punjab.
5) Members of working 2 revealed the pathway of air pollutants from fires in Punjab toward Delhi. (Takigawa et al., Can Delhi’s pollution be affected by crop fires in the Punjab region?, SOLA, 2020, Vol. 16, 77-80, doi: 10.2151/sola.2020-015:)
The 2019-2020 coronavirus pandemic will affect on our project progress.
In November 2019, S. Hayashida and Y. Matsumi met Mr. Suresh Kumar, the Chief Principal Secretary to Chief Minister, Punjab at his official residencein Chandigarh. He encouraged our project plan and suggested us to organize a conference to promote mutual understanding. According to his suggestion, we planned an India-Japan conference on March 28, 2020 in Delhi with Indian stakeholders of this issue. This conference was expected to become a good opportunity starting “transdisciplinary” study. Unfortunately, however, the conference was cancelled because India suspended most visas to halt coronavirus spread. In 2020, we may be faced with more difficulty to visit each other, and consequently some of our research plan may be delayed.
On the other hand, the coronavirus outbreak also brought a different aspect. On 24 March, 2020, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced a 21-day nationwide lockdown to stop the spread of the coronavirus, starting 00 IST on March 25.As of March 31, all Indian people are ordered to stay at their homes. Because of the lockdown, trains, automobiles and factories came to a halt, and garbage burning on roadsides ceased. As the result, the air pollution in some of the most polluted cities, including Delhi, was considerably improved by the reduction of anthropogenic emissions.Under this unexpected situation, atmosphere group (WG2) started a new mission “Detection of Emission change due to Lockdown: Human Impact Study (DELHIS).”We arranged on-line meetings several times and assigned necessary tasks to the members. For the present, the air pollutants data over Delhi, both in-situ and satellite, are being collected and analyzed. We will compare those data with the simulation results by the models with different emission scenarios in order to quantify the anthropogenic emissions in near future.
【Invited Lecture / Honorary Lecture / Panelist】