Haryana govt claims 38% dip in farm fires, but air polluted in most cities
Even as Haryana government has been reporting a 38% dip in stubble burning cases this year, the air quality index of most cities in the state continue to remain in the ‘poor’ or ‘very poor’ category.
As per the Haryana Space Application Centre’s data of the rice-residue burning events from September 15 to November 14, the state has reported 5,595 farm fires against 8,831 incidents reported during the same period last year.
But the central pollution control board’s air bulletin revealed that the AQI of at least 15 cities, including Narnaul (359), Jind (350), Manesar (342), Ballabgarh (339), Bahadurgarh (332), Gurugram (332), Charkhi-Dadri (323), Sirsa (321), Faridabad (319), Rohtak (319), Dharuhera (317), Hisar (308), Fatehabad (306), Bhiwani (251) and Ambala (219), were in the ‘very poor’ category on Monday.
The AQI of six other cities, namely Yamunanagar (248), Sonepat (274), Panipat (280), Kurukshetra (232), Karnal (223) and Kaithal (261) was categorised “poor” as the AQI remained between 200 and 300.
As per officials from the state agriculture department, there is a difference between the number of active fire locations detected by HARSAC and the actual fire locations verified on the ground by officials after physical verification.
For example in Karnal, the HARSAC has identified 897 active fire locations but officials have found only 735 incidents on ground and only 678 of them were on agricultural land. Similarly, out of 1,112 AFLs reported in Kaithal district by HARSAC, only 586 were found on the agriculture land and 526 AFLs detected by HARSAC could not be verified by the field staff.
Kaithal deputy director, agriculture, Karam Chand said, “There were also problems in the locations of the stubble burning detected by the satellite. Several locations picked up in the satellite monitoring were even traced to Punjab.”
Officials monitoring stubble burning said the air quality of cities like Karnal, Kaithal and Kurukshetra, where maximum cases of stubble burning were reported, was better than cities like Faridabad, Bahadurgarh, Sonipat, Charkhi-Dadri, Gurugram, Rohtak, and Hisar, where the incidents of farm fires are negligible.
“Farm fires alone cannot be blamed for air pollution. There are several other factors like industrial pollution, emission from vehicles and construction activities that are equally responsible for the toxic air, especially in the NCR,” said a senior officer of the Haryana State Pollution Control Board, pleading anonymity.
Haryana agriculture and farmers welfare department director general Hardeep Singh said, “No-doubt we have managed to bring the number of farm fires down this year with the help of machines, but the challenge is to bring farm fires to zero and more efforts are required so that the crop waste could be made useful.”
He said there is a need to make paddy residue valuable as in areas where farmers grow basmati varieties and the crop is harvested manually, there is no problem of stubble burning as they use parali (crop waste) as cattle fodder.
Ratan Mann, a farmer leader, said, “It’s easy to blame farmers for air pollution of Delhi but why is the air of Karnal and Kaithal better than the other cities despite having maximum cases of stubble burning.”