About project

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Aakash members (September 2019, Kyoto, Japan)

Aakash project
RIHN Full Research (April 2020 – March 2025)

This study addresses air pollution caused by large-scale post-harvest burning of rice straw in October and November in the states of Punjab and Haryana in northwestern India. Burning results in severe air pollution in surrounding areas, affecting public health and the well-being of hundreds of millions of people. This project will utilize observation data and model simulations to scientifically examine the connection between stubble burning in Punjab and severe air pollution in Delhi. Based on the findings, and considering the cultural background and local awareness of the negative impact of air pollution on health, we hope to encourage social transformation aimed at cleaner air, improved public health, and sustainable agriculture.

Our Goal

The aim of this project is to encourage social changes aimed at realizing cleaner air, improved public health, and sustainable agriculture. We will investigate behavioral changes within the community and among stakeholders and government bodies in response to various measures such as economic incentives, technological advances, and increased awareness of the health risks. Figure 1 shows the goals of the three working groups involved in the project.

Figure 1: Goals of the Aakash Project working groups.

The results of this study will allow policy makers to make informed decisions about programs designed to increase awareness and disseminate information with an emphasis on the environment, as well as livelihood protection and economic development. Accordingly, the findings will serve as a basis for addressing similar air pollution issues on a regional and global scale. 

Aakash

An Interdisciplinary Study toward Clean Air, Public Health and Sustainable Agriculture: The Case of Crop Residue Burning in North India

The Aakash Project was launched on April 1, 2020, by the Research Institute of Humanity and Nature (RIHN), Kyoto, Japan. The full title of the project is, “An Interdisciplinary Study Toward Clean Air, Public Health and Sustainable Agriculture: The Case of Crop Residue Burning in North India”. The project was given the name “Aakash,” which is the Hindi word for sky because its goal is address the issue of air pollution. Large-scale post-harvest burning of rice straw in October and November in the states of Punjab and Haryana results in severe air pollution in surrounding areas, most notably the National Capital Region comprising Delhi and its surrounding districts. Evidence also suggests that burning of crop residues negatively affects air quality across the entire Indo-Gangetic Plain (IGP), highlighting the potentially negative impact of modern agricultural practices on regional air quality as well as subsequent effects on the health and well-being of hundreds of millions of people.

Aim

This study addresses air pollution caused by large-scale post-harvest burning of rice straw in October and November in the states of Punjab and Haryana in northwestern India. Burning results in severe air pollution in surrounding areas, most notably the Delhi-National Capital Region (Delhi-NCR). Evidence also suggests that burning negatively affects air quality across the entire IGP, highlighting the potentially negative impact of modern agricultural practices on regional air quality as well as subsequent effects on the health and well-being of hundreds of millions of people.

Background

 Historically, the Punjab region of India, which is semi-arid with low levels of precipitation, was not deemed suitable for intensive cultivation. Traditional agriculture in the region consisted of a combination of wheat cultivation and livestock (cattle) farming. However, the development of irrigation canals during the British colonial period transformed the region into a large producer of grain, and in the 1960s, it became the seat of the so-called “Green Revolution,” playing a central role in food production for the populous nation. By the 1970s, most of the region had adopted a double-cropping system of wheat and rice. However, this cultivation practice required farmers to sow wheat immediately after the rice harvest. Although traditional hand-harvesting allows cropping of rice stalks at ground level, increased use of combine harvesters resulted in large quantities of stubble in the field. Consequently, farmers were forced to burn this residue (stubble and stalk) to prepare the ground for wheat seeding within the short period of time between late October and early November. Moreover, the prevailing winds at this time tend to shift in a northwesterly direction, often directing the resulting smoke toward Delhi-NCR, markedly affecting the local air quality. However, the cause and effect relationship between stubble burning in Punjab region and worsening air pollution in Delhi has yet to be fully established, largely due to the lack of an accurate air pollution monitoring network in India compared with those in developed nations. Moreover, many farmers in the Punjab region are reluctant to acknowledge their own actions, and there is also some disagreement among academic researchers.

Project Structure & Research Plan

This project will utilize observation data and model simulations to examine the connection between stubble burning in Punjab and severe air pollution in Delhi. Based on the findings, we hope to encourage social transformation aimed at cleaner air, improved public health, and sustainable agriculture. Three working groups will be involved, each examining various aspects of the behavior of farmers and the community, as well as that of stakeholders and government bodies.

For more information on these working groups => Working Groups