With 529 fresh cases, farm fire incidents touch 8.3K mark - Hindustan Times
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With 529 fresh cases, farm fire incidents touch 8.3K mark

By, Chandigarh
May 15, 2024 09:21 PM IST

On Tuesday, 1,024 cases of wheat straw burning were witnessed across the state. If the trend continues, such cases this season are likely to cross the last year’s total of 9,247.

As many as 529 fresh cases of wheat stubble burning were recorded in Punjab on Wednesday, taking the total number of such incidents in the current rabi harvest season to 8,357. On Tuesday, 1,024 such cases were witnessed across the state. Experts say that if the trend continues, the fire cases this season will cross the last year’s total of 9,247.

Punjab Agricultural University’s Vice-Chancellor SS Gosal says most of the wheat growers are not keeping milch animals which consume dry fodder, so farmers prefer to burn stubble. (HT file photo)
Punjab Agricultural University’s Vice-Chancellor SS Gosal says most of the wheat growers are not keeping milch animals which consume dry fodder, so farmers prefer to burn stubble. (HT file photo)

According to Brijendra Pateriya, Director, Punjab Remote Sensing Centre, worries are mounting as the farm fire cases appear uncontrollable. The reason behind the government’s laxity is being attributed to the election preparations for which a major section of the state machinery and the political dispensation is busy.

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Farm fire cases have led to an increase in the values of air quality index (AQI), which has touched the 300 mark, leading to health hazards such as throat infection and cases of lung congestion.

In the current season, wheat was sown over 35.08 lakh hectares (86 lakh acres). The harvest is on its last legs as the maturing of late sown varieties, particularly in the Majha belt of the state, has delayed.

So far, 132 lakh tonnes of freshly harvested wheat has arrived in the mandis of the state, surpassing the last year’s procurement of 125.87 lakh tonnes.

During the kharif harvest of 2023, nearly two-thirds of the paddy sown area in Punjab went under the stubble fires, causing health hazards in Punjab, Haryana and New Delhi. It witnessed a jump of 26% as compared to the area that went under fire in the previous kharif harvest of 2022. In the state, paddy is sown on 30 lakh hectares every year and as per data procured from the state remote sensing centre, in 2022 over 15 lakh hectares saw burning of paddy stubble which rose to 19 lakh hectares last year.

Though the number of stubble fire cases came down by 26% to 36,623 in 2023 from 49,922 in 2022, the data from the remote sensing centre punches a hole in the Punjab government’s claims that farm fires came down during paddy harvest of 2023.

Speaking on the trend in the rabi harvest season, a secretary-level officer of the state agriculture department said attempts were being made to bring down the number. State agencies have been successful, the officer stated.

According to Punjab Agricultural University’s Vice-Chancellor SS Gosal, the trend has changed in the past few years. “Wheat growers mostly are not keeping milch animals which consume dry fodder, so farmers prefer to burn stubble. Making dry fodder has become a costlier proposition so farmers prefer to burn the farm residue. But farm fires should stop,” he said.

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR
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    Gurpreet Singh Nibber is an Assistant Editor with the Punjab bureau. He covers politics, agriculture, power sector, environment, Sikh religious affairs and the Punjabi diaspora.

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