Energy & Environment Lab Reducing Pollution from Crop Burning

An estimated 20% of smog in Pakistan’s Punjab province is caused by the burning of rice crop residue. Commonly used as a cheap way of clearing fields for the next planting, this practice releases harmful greenhouse gases with downstream effects on air quality, human health, and climate change.  

Aiming to improve air quality, the Punjab Agriculture Department (AgriPunjab) launched the Mechanized Management of Rice Crop Residue (MMRCR) program to subsidize two types of machines – rice shredders and Happy Seeders – that shred rice crop residue and incorporate it back into the soil, rather than burning it. In partnership with AgriPunjab and the International Growth Centre, the Energy & Environment Lab is designing a randomized control trial to measure the effect of the program on crop burning, crop yields, farmer profits, and air pollution. 

For this trial, AgriPunjab screened applications to only farmers who were eligible for the program and randomly selected farmers from this group to be able to purchase the devices at the subsidized price. The Lab then established partnerships with local stakeholders to collect data from farmers on their utilization of these green technologies and their residue burning during rice harvest. In addition to spot-checks to observe burning and machine use during rice harvest, the Lab will also administer in-person farmer surveys to gauge farmers' take-up and use of this "green" technology. The results of this research will inform AgriPunjab’s continuing efforts to find ways to reduce pollution from burning of rice crop residue in the province.