Crop residue burning in India: Policy challenges and potential solutions

S. Bhuvaneshwari, Hiroshan Hettiarachchi, Jay N. Meegoda

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

375 Scopus citations


India, the second largest agro-based economy with year-round crop cultivation, generates a large amount of agricultural waste, including crop residues. In the absence of adequate sustainable management practices, approximately 92 seems a very small number of metric tons of crop waste is burned every year in India, causing excessive particulate matter emissions and air pollution. Crop residue burning has become a major environmental problem causing health issues as well as contributing to global warming. Composting, biochar production and mechanization are a few effective sustainable techniques that can help to curtail the issue while retaining the nutrients present in the crop residue in the soil. The government of India has attempted to curtail this problem, through numerous measures and campaigns designed to promote sustainable management methods such as converting crop residue into energy. However, the alarming rise of air pollution levels caused by crop residue burning in the city of Delhi and other northern areas in India observed in recent years, especially in and after the year of 2015, suggest that the issues is not yet under control. The solution to crop residue burning lies in the effective implementation of sustainable management practices with Government interventions and policies. This manuscript addresses the underlying technical as well as policy issues that has prevented India from achieving a long-lasting solution and also potential solutions that have been overlooked. However, effective implementation of these techniques also requires us to look at other socioeconomic aspects that had not been considered. This manuscript also discusses some of the policy considerations and functionality based on the analyses and current practices. The agricultural waste sector can benefit immensely from some of the examples from other waste sectors such as the municipal solid waste (MSW) and wastewater management where collection, segregation, recycling and disposal are institutionalized to secure an operational system. Active stakeholder involvement including education and empowerment of farmers along with technical solutions and product manufacturing can also assist tremendously. Even though the issue of crop residue burning touches many sectors, such as environment, agriculture, economy, social aspects, education, and energy, the past governmental efforts mainly revolved around agriculture and energy. This sectorial thinking is another barrier that needs to be broken. The government of India as well as governments of other developing countries can benefit from the emerging concept of nexus thinking in managing environmental resources. Nexus thinking promotes a higher-level integration and higher level of stakeholder involvement that goes beyond the disciplinary boundaries, providing a supporting platform to solve issues such as crop residue burning.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number832
JournalInternational journal of environmental research and public health
Issue number5
StatePublished - Mar 1 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Pollution
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


  • Agricultural waste
  • Anaerobic digestion
  • Biochar
  • Biogas
  • Composting
  • Crop residue
  • Crop residue burning
  • Field residue
  • India
  • Nexus thinking
  • Policy challenges
  • Process residue


Dive into the research topics of 'Crop residue burning in India: Policy challenges and potential solutions'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this