Farm fires back in Punjab, 214 cases reported in fortnight - Hindustan Times
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Farm fires back in Punjab, 214 cases reported in fortnight

By, Patiala
Oct 01, 2023 11:01 PM IST

With paddy harvesting underway in Punjab, farm fires have started with 81 cases reported on Saturday, mostly in the Majha region. In an effort to reduce stubble burning, the Punjab government has promised to decrease it by 50% compared to last year. The state recorded 49,000 farm fires in 2022, down from 71,000 in 2021. Punjab plans to make six districts farm fire-free and has measures in place to manage paddy straw. Stubble burning contributes to severe air pollution in North Indian states and Delhi. Farmers argue they have no choice but to burn stubble due to lack of affordable alternatives.

With paddy harvesting picking pace, the farm fires have also started across the state with nearly 81 cases reported on Saturday. Most of the cases have been reported from the Majha region, where harvesting starts early.

Farmers burn stubble after harvest a paddy crop in field. Amritsar, on Saturday. (Sameer Sehgal/HT)
Farmers burn stubble after harvest a paddy crop in field. Amritsar, on Saturday. (Sameer Sehgal/HT)

On September 30, 81 active fire events were captured by the Punjab Remote Sensing Centre (PRSC). In 2021, on the corresponding date, 215 active fire events were recorded and in the year 2022, eight fire events were reported.

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Amritsar alone recorded 63 cases of farm fires. Overall 214 cases have been reported in this current Kharif season harvest so far starting September 15. Out of the total cases, 174 cases were reported only in Amritsar, followed by 13 cases in Tarn Taran.

“As per the data of the previous year, the farm fires start from Amritsar due to early harvest and then pick up in Tarn Taran, which usually records the maximum farm fires in the Majha area. The harvest is on time in Majha, while it is delayed in Malwa because of the late sowing of paddy due to floods. Thus the farm fires start early in Majha”, said an official of the agriculture department.

He said that on September 27, a total of 21 cases were reported, on September 28, there were 33 cases, and on September 29, the cases jumped to 68.

In an action plan submitted to the Commission for Air Quality Management (CAQM), the Punjab government has assured to bring down paddy stubble burning by 50% in comparison to last year.

The state recorded 49,000 farm fires in 2022 down from 71,000 cases in 2021.

Additionally, the state plans to have six districts — Hoshiarpur, Malerkotla, Pathankot, Roopnagar, Mohali and Nawanshahr — farm fire-free.

Punjab has around 31 lakh hectares of area under paddy which is estimated to generate nearly 20 million tonnes of straw in harvest season that takes place in October and November months. This also includes 3.3 million tonnes of premium aromatic basmati variety. Out of the total paddy straw, the state government plans to manage around 11.5 million tonnes through various in-situ management measures and 4.67 million tonnes by the ex-situ method.

During the harvest in October-November, Punjab farmers usually have a shorter window to clear their fields for the winter crop. Invariably, many choose to burn the paddy stubble left behind after the harvest, sending up plumes of smoke that drift over to large population centres, sink and choke settlements in toxic smog.

The crisis often pushes air in North Indian states and that of the national capital Delhi, into the severe category, with air quality index (AQI) climbing past 400 and even 450, to reach severe and severe-plus categories. Apart from Punjab, Haryana and Western Uttar Pradesh farmers also contribute to the smog.

As per last year’s data, the maximum crop waste-burning incidents were reported in the five districts of Sangrur, Bathinda, Ferozepur, Muktsar, and Moga, which recorded about 44% of the total cases in the state.

Farmers say no option but to burn stubble

Meanwhile, Jagmohan Singh, general secretary, Bharatiya Kisan Union (Dakaunda), said that farmers don’t have the option but to burn the stubble.

Jagmohan said that small farmers can’t afford straw management machines even on the subsidised rate. “Majority of small farmers can’t afford a machine which would cost 1.15 lakh even on subsidy. Why would they get a machine worth lakhs – which would be used only for six days in a year?” Jagmohan said.

He added that the government should give 5,000 per acre to each farmer, and they would handle the stubble on their own.

On being asked about the punitive action against farmers, Jagmohan said, “We are not scared of these threats. We will protest against the government if they take any action against the farmers for burning stubble.”

All preparations done for procurement: mandi board chairman

Punjab Mandi Board chairman Harchand Singh Barsat said that all the arrangements have been put in place for the smooth procurement of paddy – which would start on October 1.

“All the arrangements have been made in all the 1870 grain markets across the state. Drinking water and sanitation arrangements for farmers and labourers have already been made.

Burning issue

In an action plan submitted to the Commission for Air Quality Management (CAQM), the Punjab government has assured to bring down paddy stubble burning by 50% in comparison to last year

Date cases

September 27 21

September 28 33

September 29 68

September 30 81

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR
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    Vishal Rambani is an assistant editor covering Punjab. A journalist with over a decade of experience, he writes on politics, crime, power sector, environment and socio-economic issues. He has several investigative stories to his credit.

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