The incidents of stubble burning in Punjab have witnessed a six-fold increase in the first 20 days of the harvesting season when compared with the previous two years.

The satellite data shows that the state recorded 1,926 farm fires from September 21 to October 9, against 412 in 2019 and 399 in 2018 during the corresponding period. As per data, Amritsar (920), Tarn Taran (405), Patiala (153) and Gurdaspur (102) have recorded the highest farm fire incidents among Punjab districts.

Farmers in these districts sow vegetables after paddy harvesting. “Amritsar had recorded 1,510 fires during entire kharif season last year. Therefore, this year’s number is alarming,” said an official.

Satnam Singh Pannu, a farmer leader, said, “Farmers are also burning straw as a mark of protest as the government failed to compensate them for handling of straw last year.” The Punjab Pollution Control Board (PPCB) is sending daily inputs to the deputy commissioners and the field staff about the incidents of stubble burning in their areas.

So far, 460 farmers have been challaned Rs 12.25 lakh for violations.

PPCB secretary Krunesh Garg said, “It is not fair to draw a comparison between the data of just 20 days. The maximum fire incidents took place after third week of October and we have roped in all departments concerned to check such incidents.”

“Of the 1,926 cases, nearly half are non-farm incidents,” he claimed.

The Punjab government has deputed 8,000 nodal officers in paddy growing villages to check burning of crop residue this year.

Stubble burning rampant in Pak border areas too

Incidents of widespread stubble burning have been detected in the border areas of Pakistan and the neighbouring state of Haryana, showed the satellite images shared by the Punjab Remote Sensing Centre (PRSC).

In satellite images captured on October 8 and 9, the PRSC spotted farm fires near the border areas of Lahore, Basirpur, Pakpattan, Burewala, Chenab Nagar and Bahawal Nagar in Pakistan.

In Haryana, most of straw burning incidents are detected in the areas of Karnal, Pehowa and Ambala.

Prabhjyot Kaur Sidhu, head of department of climate change and agricultural meteorology, Punjab Agricultural University (PAU), Ludhiana, said, “The main problem occurs between October 15 and November 15 when calm conditions prevail in the northern region and the smoke settles as it is not disbursed properly, resulting in long spells of haze. Moreover, burning of crackers during the festival season compounds the problem.”

She said burning of stubble leads to an alarming rise in fine particulate matter (PM2.5) and it is a matter of concern for cities like Amritsar, Ludhiana and Chandigarh.

Source: of concern for cities like Amritsar, Ludhiana and Chandigarh. Source: Hindustan Times, Oct 10, 2020