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Tuesday, Dec 10, 2019

Punjab to use optical satellite images for clearer picture on farm fires

Principal secretary (environment) RK Verma told HT on Thursday that OSI will give village-wise data with colour coding to identify the burnt area under paddy cultivation.

chandigarh Updated: Nov 15, 2019 07:59 IST
Vishal Joshi
Vishal Joshi
Hindustan Times, Bathinda
(Representative image)

The number of farmers facing action for burning paddy stubble is likely to increase significantly soon as the Punjab Remote Sensing Centre (PRSC) in Ludhiana is preparing optical satellite imagery (OSI) database to identify specific affected areas.

Principal secretary (environment) RK Verma told HT on Thursday that OSI will give village-wise data with colour coding to identify the burnt area under paddy cultivation.

“Thermal imagery system sends us a daily report of active fires in the fields that are forwarded to the district authorities for further action. However, delay in official field inspections and ploughing of fields by farmers immediately after setting the stubble afire are the main reasons behind non-detection of farm fires. But OSI will enable us to analyse better about areas actually put under fire,” says Verma.

According to the data on stubble burning cases compiled by district-level authorities till November 12, no fire in more than 17,000 sites across Punjab was spotted.

Till Tuesday, the Punjab Remote Sensing Centre (PRSC) had issued 48,125 alerts of fires in the state. The official teams so far visited 40,557 sites in different districts and inputs of ‘no fire’ were reported in 17,832 cases till Tuesday.

The state government has initiated legal action in 29,671 cases for burning crop residue.

However, officials said, several farmers evaded action as district authorities failed to take action upon PRSC data on farm fires.

Dr Anil Sood, a senior scientist analysing stubble burning data at PRSC, said the institute has a comprehensive data of area under rice cultivation in the state.

“Unlike thermal imagery system, OSI is capable of detecting even minor traces of fires in the identified fields. OSI data is generated after detailed analysis and it will be completed soon to point out the spots where fires took place,” he said.

Deputy commissioners of various districts claim that their local teams worked efficiently for field inspections, but satellite data on fires was found erroneous in several cases.

PRSC had sent 4,326 cases of fire alerts in Ferozepur district whereas the data says fire could not be verified in 2,483 cases.

In Bathinda, official teams failed to establish any fire at 1,491 sites out of total 3,690 spots visited.

Similarly, Sangrur recorded 4,557 fire cases, but the district reported no fire in 1,563 sites.

Meanwhile, Punjab Pollution Control Board (PPCB) member secretary Krunesh Garg said the satellite imagery is an established system to detect fire through using sensors.

“There is no human intervention in data collection and the satellite-based system works efficiently. The districts may have lacked coordination in correlating fires with satellite inputs. It should have been streamlined to get more results,” says Garg.