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In poll season, officials fail to act against farmers burning stubble in Punjab

As per figures given by the Punjab state remote-sensing department, 150 cases of stubble burning have been reported in Malwa region. Most of these cases were reported in the current week. No case has been registered against the defaulters so far.

chandigarh Updated: May 10, 2019 11:55 IST
Gurpreet Singh Nibber
Gurpreet Singh Nibber
Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
stubble burning in punjab,air pollution,NGT
A farmer burns stubble in his field on the outskirts of Sangrur district, Punjab, Wednesday, May 08, 2019.(Bharat Bhushan / HT Photo )

Despite a ban by the National Green Tribunal (NGT) on stubble burning and the Supreme Court order on its strict compliance, a large number of farmers in Punjab, particularly in the Malwa region, are resorting to burning of wheat crop residue leading to air pollution.

With the Lok Sabha elections around the corner and campaigning in full swing, the state machinery, particularly the agriculture department, and the Punjab Pollution Control Board (PPCB) are turning a blind eye to this malpractice.

During a visit to various areas in the Patiala, Sangrur, Bathinda and Faridkot districts, an HT team found that farmers were indulging in burning of stubble and to cover it up, they were seen irrigating and ploughing the fields immediately after the stubble got burnt completely.

The scale of smoke emitted by burning wheat stubble is not huge as compared to the paddy stubble because farmers are setting fields on fire after storing a major portion of the stubble for dry fodder after harvest.

“We are not setting on fire the entire stubble as in case of paddy. We burn only the leftover after making dry fodder from the chaff after harvest,” said a farmer in Upli village of Sangrur district.

As per figures given by the Punjab state remote-sensing department, 150 cases of stubble burning have been reported in Malwa region. Most of these cases were reported in the current week. No case has been registered against the defaulters so far.

‘Making farmers aware’: Agri director

“We are making farmers aware but still there are some who resort to the malpractice,” said director, agriculture, Sutantar Kumar Airi.

He added that due to delay in wheat harvesting, farmers have got a very short time for cotton sowing for which 10-15 days are the best-suited period.

According to Airi, the agriculture department is also making efforts to increase the area under cotton cultivation from the last year’s 2.74 hectares to 4 lakh hectares this season.

The practice of paddy stubble burning in the state is rampant. After the end of paddy harvesting last year, 43,000 cases of stubble burning were reported. The Punjab government, in a report sent to the Centre, had said the state can’t do much in checking the stubble burning, as the machines supplied were only for covering 30% of 74.5 lakh acres under paddy cultivation. The state hopes a visible change next year, despite the fact that 25,922 subsidised machines to manage straw were rolled out in state farms.

A PPCB official, seeking anonymity, accepted that farmers are indulging in wheat stubble burning, but it was going unnoticed because of dry weather conditions, helping smoke to spread out unlike during the onset of winters when burning of paddy stubble leads to a thick layer of smog. He added that no action has been initiated against the farmers.

First Published: May 10, 2019 11:53 IST