NASA to set up community response forum to assess impact of stubble burning in northern India
−− NASA’s Universities Space Research Association (USRA) will work towards developing this community forum to cover multiple aspects of biomass burning and its impact on regional air quality in the Indian sub-continent during the winter months.
Sep. 22, 2020
A month before harvest season begins in Northern India —which also means the onset of an increased pollution load in Delhi on account of large scale crop residue burning in the region — the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is rushing to set up a ‘community response forum’ to conduct a thorough analysis of the impact of stubble burning on the national capital and its neighbouring areas, while looking at possible solutions.
NASA’s Universities Space Research Association (USRA) will work towards developing this community forum to cover multiple aspects of biomass burning and its impact on regional air quality in the Indian sub-continent during the winter months. Through the forum, NASA will also invite a panel of experts to share this knowledge with the public.
Pawan Gupta, research scientist at the Goddard Earth Sciences Technology and Research (GESTAR), USRA, said, “Air pollution season in India, usually associated with crop burning, will be starting soon. This year, we will be supporting satellite AQ (air quality) data analysis and forecasting through a community forum.”
The first meeting of the forum will be conducted on September 24, after which the expert panel will meet twice every week starting October 1, till the end of the fire season.
In addition, the forum will also be used to provide training sessions on how to use various earth observations and tools available to analyse fire, smoke, and air quality data. This is also being developed as a platform for researchers to share their data and solutions providing alternatives to farmers in the agrarian belt so that the problem of mass-burning can be dealt with.
Every year NASA tracks fires in the agrarian states of Haryana, Punjab and Uttar Pradesh in real time with the help of satellite data. Because of a change in the wind patterns and lowered wind speeds at the onset of winters — when stubble burning activity is at its peak — the capital witnesses a drastic dip in its air quality as plumes of smoke blow into the city from Haryana, Punjab and Uttar Pradesh.
Delhi government data shows that last year, stubble burning accounted for 44% of Delhi’s air pollution. It added that Punjab produces 20 million tonnes of crop stubble out of which 9 million tonnes was burnt last year. In Haryana, 1.23 million tonnes, out of 7 million tonnes, was burnt in 2019.
Delhi environment minister Gopal Rai said the government was willing to explore all possible solutions to reduce crop residue burning in the neighbouring states.
“We are conducting regular meetings with the state governments of Punjab and Haryana, which are the two main states from where pollutants enter Delhi. We are also encouraging experts and researchers to develop technology interventions that can help farmers find alternatives to burning,” Rai said.
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