Fires: The Political Economy and Health Impacts of Crop Burning in South Asia

Date & Time Sep 12 2022 12:00 PM - 1:30 PM
Saad Gulzar
Audience Restricted to Princeton University

Authors: Gemma Dipoppa (Brown) and Saad Gulzar (Princeton)

Abstract: Air pollution in South Asia is the largest health emergency on the planet, responsible for over 4 million deaths annually. We study the political economy foundations of fighting crop burning, a factor that is said to contribute a third of the experienced pollution in the area. We causally identify variation in administrators’ incentives to curb pollution, leveraging a decade of wind, fire and health data from satellites and DHS surveys spanning over 17 million grids in India and Pakistan. We find that (1) the incidence of fires drops by 10 percent when smoke would affect most of the home district where the fire is located, and that (2) this effect is driven by administrators’ capacity and incentives to curb fires. (3) We use a meteorological model to estimate trajectories of fire particles for a decade, calculate in-utero exposure, and show that fires increase child mortality. Our results indicate that administrators’ accountability to their constituents and lack of accountability for the pollution externality they cause to other districts have a substantial impact on crop fires, pollution, and child mortality.

Saad Gulzar is an Assistant Professor of Politics and International Affairs