Stubble burning in India of interest to Mid Sweden University researchers

Wed 23 Dec 2020 08:00

Since 2015, India has experienced an alarming increase in air pollution caused by so-called stubble burning. In a new pilot project, researchers at Mid Sweden University, together with the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) in Ropar, will investigate the health effects that the method causes.

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"Stubble burning is a global problem that causes major health problems, especially for people in low- and middle-income countries. There are other methods to take care of crop residues in agriculture, methods that are also better for the climate, but studies are needed that motivate politicians and other decision-makers to use them. The study is also part of our ambition to promote the global sustainability goals and increase international cooperation," says Professor Koustuv Dalal, the project leader.

Stubble burning is the burning of residues and remaining plant parts on the ground after growing, for example, rice, maize and wheat in the fields after harvest, instead of moving them to another location or eco-friendly processing. But it requires labour and transportation costs, which is too high for the poor farmers. Burning one hectare of straw and rice can produce emissions of equivalent to 3 tons of carbon dioxide, 400 kilograms of ash and 120 kilograms of carbon monoxide, but also other particles and sulphur dioxide. The smoke from the burning creates major problems for the people in the villages as well as for the soil, water, air and environment.

This is the first public health and health economics study is carrying out on the subject. The goal is for it to be followed by more extensive studies where researchers have planned to seek funding from, among others, the World Health Organisation and World Bank. Dr. Heidi Carlerby, Associate Professor Eija Viitasara and Professor Katja Gillander Gådin are researchers in the Swedish team together with the teamleader Professor Koustuv Dalal, health economist.

"We shall measure the health-related quality of life among children, the elderly and the pregnant women living in the stubble burning areas" says Professor Koustuv Dalal.

The study received funding from the Swedish Research Council. It will be conducted in four selected villages in Punjab, a member state, where this is an annual, recurring problem. Two of the villages are located in stubble burning areas while the other two are far from areas plagued by stubble burning.

"We will also measure the air, water and soil quality in the selected villages before and immediately after the farmers have carried out stubble burning. This gives a better understanding of the health effects of this method," says Koustuv Dalal.

Existing epidemiological studies made by WHO, support the risk of adverse health effects of stubble burning. Studies also show that health problems provide indirect costs to society through sick leave. The current study will also explore the healthcare burden, out-of-pocket payments due to stubble burning.

Contact person:
Koustuv Dalal, Professor, Health Economist, Mid Sweden University, +4610-142 79 95,


The page was updated 4/28/2021