Farm fires till Nov 2 half of those reported last year: CAQM
The incidents of farm fires in parts of Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Delhi reported between September 15 and November 2, just about halved this year compared to the same period last year, according to the data provided by the Commission for Air Quality Management in Delhi-NCR and adjoining areas (CAQM).
The data shows that 21,364 stubble burning instances were reported between the period this year compared to 43,918 fires -- a drop of 51.35%. Correspondingly, the contribution of farm fires to the overall pollution in Delhi has stayed up to 20% this year so far, even though experts have warned that it may see a spike soon.
If the CAQM data is juxtaposed with the average air quality data provided by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), it can be seen that Delhi’s AQI has stayed mostly in the moderate and satisfactory zone between September 15 and October 26. To be sure, this included three poor air days on 16, 17 and 20 October; and an unprecedented good air day on October 18. However, since October 27, the air quality stayed in poor or very poor zone.
Farm fires are a major contributor of the particulate pollutants to Delhi’s air during the winters when thousands of farmers across Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh set the stubble on fire after harvesting the paddy.
“To curb and abate air pollution from stubble burning, the commission has prepared a detailed framework and pursuant to that, action plans have been finalised by the government of Punjab, NCR state governments and the government of Delhi,” the CAQM said on Wednesday.
The commission also pointed out that this season, the major hot spots of paddy residue burning in the state of Punjab were Tarn Taran, Amritsar, Firozpur, Patiala, Ludhiana and Kapurthala. In Haryana, maximum stubble fires were reported from Kaithal, Karnal, Kurukshetra, Fatehabad, Ambala and Jind.
“This season, 8,575 fields where stubble burning was reported, have so far been inspected by the state enforcement agencies and officials of the respective states and environmental compensation (EC) of about Rs. 58,05,000 has been imposed on violators,” the statement by CAQM said.
It added, “Concerted efforts are being taken by the state governments, departments and various other stakeholders towards better in-situ management of crop residue through the use of CRM (crop residue management) machinery, PUSA bio-decomposers and facilitating various options for ex-situ utilization of paddy straw, besides large number of IEC (information, education and communication) activities, educational campaigns, awareness camps and publicity through print, electronic and social media.”
The CAQM said that the air quality in Delhi was comparatively better this time compared to last year. “The hazy layer is fog and not smog as is being mistaken. There is comparatively less smoke and pollution share in the air now,” the statement said.
Environment experts said that while the efforts of the commission and the government agencies were in the right direction, it was also important to note that this year because of a late monsoon withdrawal the stubble fires started late and the spike has only started from October-end.
“Between September 1 and November 2, over 18,747 and 4,842 farm fires were spotted in Punjab and Haryana. Yesterday (Tuesday) alone, more than 2,500 farm fires were reported in Punjab and Haryana. As we are in peak stubble burning window, fires are likely to go up to 3000-4000 per day in the coming days. While the current share of stubble burning on Delhi’s particulate levels is less than 10%, it is expected to reach 35-45% on November 5 on account of northwesterly winds,” LS Kurinji, programme associate, Council on Energy, Environment and Water (CEEW).
She added, “Furthermore, since Diwali coincides with the peak stubble burning window this year, forecasts suggest that the additional load from firecrackers could further deteriorate the air quality in Delhi NCR. Taking cues from these forecasts, cities in the Indo-Gangetic Plain should execute pre-emptive measures controlling emissions from local sources in advance to avert severe air quality conditions.”