Spike in straw burning cases in state, 10,000 in four days
Officials blame it on delay in paddy harvesting and late delivery of machines to handle stubble, say air quality index much better this year
PATIALA: Despite Punjab government’s awareness measures, more than 10,000 stubble burning incidents have been reported in the state since Diwali.
The state recorded 40,788 paddy straw burning cases till November 10 this year as compared to 41,928 in the corresponding period last year. A total of 48,000 fire incidents were reported in the state last year and the number was 78,000 in 2016.
On Diwali (November 7), 3,466 stubble burning incidents were reported from across the state while the number was 4,241 the next day, highest of this season so far.
On November 9, as many as 2,045 fire incidents were reported, maximum in the Malwa belt. At least 815 such incidents have been reported till afternoon on Saturday (November 10).
Stubble burning is widely acknowledged as a leading cause of the seasonal winter smog that has made the air in north India polluted.
Paddy is grown on 65 lakh acres in Punjab. After harvesting, about 200 lakh tonnes of straw is left in the fields to be managed by farmers before sowing the next rabi crops, including wheat. It is estimated that 150 lakh tonnes of paddy straw is burnt by farmers for early and easy clearance of the fields.
The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has fixed fines ranging between ₹2,500 and ₹15,000 on farmers to prevent them from burning paddy fields.
“The fire incidents are rising now as the paddy harvesting has been delayed this year. Most of the incidents are being reported from the Malwa districts where farmer unions are strong and are not allowing authorities to take action against violators. There have been more than 600 cases where filed staff could not take action against violators following farmers’ opposition. On Friday, a Punjab Pollution Control Board (PPCB) team was gheraoed in Bathinda,” said a PPCB official privy to the development.
He admitted that delayed harvest and late delivery of machinery to handle stubble have led to spurt in straw burning cases. “The time window for harvesting paddy and sowing wheat is less than 10 days,” he said. “If field fire incidents continue at this pace, the number might touch the last year’s figure,” said the official, who didn’t want to be named as he is not authorised to speak to the media.
The state agriculture department said though the stubble burning cases have witnessed a spike in recent days, the area on which the straw was put on fire is lesser this year. “Fire incidents and the area where the straw is burnt are being monitored by satellite. The Air Quality Index is also much better in the state this year,” said state agriculture secretary Kahan Singh Pannu.
PPCB spokesman Charanjit Singh too said the area on which paddy straw is burnt is lesser this year.