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HindustanTimes Sat,19 Apr 2014

Burning crop waste in Punjab in India, Pak adding to smog: Nasa

Chetan Chauhan , Hindustan Times  New Delhi, November 07, 2013
First Published: 00:52 IST(7/11/2013) | Last Updated: 10:17 IST(7/11/2013)

Burning of agricultural waste in Punjab in India and Pakistan in the last one week may be the reason behind the thick smog that has engulfed entire northern India, according to new satellite images released by Nasa.

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Latest photographs released by US satellite agency showed hundreds of fire hot-spots (in red) across Punjab in India and Pakistan on October 27 and on November 5 confirming local pollution is not the reason for heavy smog.

Nasa in a statement on its website posted on Wednesday said: “When combined with smoke, such hotspots identify actively burning fires…Clustering of fires in this region is a common phenomenon each fall.”

The farmers in this region burn the waste from autumn or kharif crop while preparing land for plating the spring or rabi crop. “Farmers often use fire to return nutrients to the soil and to clear the ground of unwanted plants. While fire helps enhance crops and grass for pasture, the fires also produce smoke that degrades air quality,” Nasa said.

A Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) official said low disbursal of pollutants because of weak westerly winds had prevented the smoke to disburse into the colder Himalayan region. 

The particulate matter levels in most cities of the region was about three to four times of the national air quality standard on Tuesday morning, which further increased during the day with vehicular traffic increasing after a two-day Diwali break.

Agra in Uttar Pradesh saw the particulate matter level reaching about 360 micro grams in a cubic meter of air while it was 260 ug/m3 in Lucknow.

Based on inputs from the weather department, the CPCB believes the pollution levels in northern India will remain on a higher side for few days.

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