Promoting alternative practices to mitigate open agricultural burning in Punjab, India

Climate-smart agriculture techniques, like no-till and soil restoration, eliminate the need to practice open burning and can deliver many additional benefits in the form of reduced irrigation, improved air quality and public health, improved soil quality, and increased yields.

The Climate and Clean Air Coalition (CCAC) has funded work with the International Cryosphere Climate Initiative (ICCI), Miami University Ohio, Michigan Tech Research Institute and local partners in India to raise awareness about climate-smart agriculture techniques and enable adoption through demonstration projects. The India demonstration project was carried out with support from the Punjab Agricultural Management and Extension Training Institute (PAMETI). 


Our Agriculture Initiative supports regional networks and projects that facilitate the adoption of 'no-burn' alternative practices. Implementing these methods could cut global black carbon emissions by half, while simultaneously providing economic and social benefits for farmers. 

Why we're doing this work

Open agricultural burning is the world's fourth largest of source of black carbon emissions and one of the largest contributors to air pollution-related illnesses and deaths.

In Punjab, where 29% of India's rice and 46% of its wheat is grown, crop residue is most commonly burnt causing major air pollution episodes that affect the area and nearby states each harvest season. This is significant as Punjab makes up only 1.5% of India’s land area.

Open agricultural burning is widely used in other northern Indo-Gangetic Plain in other states, namely Haryana, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh, because it is a quick, easy and cheap method to clear and prepare a field . The area of paddy rice in Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh is around 3.0, 1.3, 5.8 and 0.18 million hectares, respectively. These four states produce on average 37-39 million tonnes of residue rice stubble. Punjab & Haryana alone account for around 28-29 million tonnes of residue rice stubble, 80% of which is burnt in the fields.

Rice straw is burnt because there is a very narrow window - approximately 20 days - between the harvesting and sowing of crops. The problem continues unabated in Punjab because most farmers are unaware of the ill-effects of open agricultural burning and are unable to afford the machinery needed to manage crop stubble.

What we're doing

Our demonstration project in Punjab, India has a three-pronged approach to introduce no-burn agricultural systems: mapping and monitoring to define the problem, educating farmers and experts, and supporting policy. Activities we have carried out include: 

  • Raising awareness through the distribution and publication of residue management strategies and brochures, as well as through mass media campaigns using billboards, broadcast media, and web and mobile technology. 
  • Farmer awareness camps, farmer-scientist meetings, field days, school awareness camps, door-to-door contact, farmer training camps, village-level workshops, on and off campus farmer training, visits to demonstration plots and farms where farmers are practicing crop residue management 
  • Working with governments, schools and universities to identify and train ambassador farmers and opinion leaders 
  • Award ceremonies to recognise farmers practicing no-burn methods to persuade more farmers about sustainable crop residue management

See an update on this work

Pollutants (SLCPs)