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"Rice crop residue burning during mid-October to November every year is becoming a serious health threat because of increased burning by farmers in the states of Punjab, Haryana, and western Uttar Pradesh in northern India. Crop residue burning started in the late 1980s with the start of mechanised harvesting in Punjab. Farmers found burning to be an economical way of cleaning crop stalk residues that are left over by mechanised harvesters. In doing so, farmers ignore the impact of this practice on health and air quality in the cities located in the Indo-Gangetic Plains. In the winter season, the severity of this problem increases as dispersion of smoke plumes is slowed down because of cold temperatures, whereas during the summer season the problem does not exist because of fast dispersion of plumes from burning. The practice of crop residue burning that started in Punjab has slowly spread to other adjoining states in northern India. We have found that the impact of crop residue burning on air quality is not restricted to cities in the Indo-Gangetic Plains alone, but is spreading to the far eastern parts of the Indo-Gangetic Plains and over central and southern parts of India, including parts of Bihar, Jharkhand, West Bengal, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Odisha, Telangana, and Maharashtra. We used diverse climate datasets derived from different NASA space platforms as well as global climate models and ground stations for our analysis."


This article was originally published in The Lancet Planetary Health, volume 2, issue 8, in 2018. DOI:10.1016/S2542-5196(18)30166-9

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