Wheat stubble burning starts in Malwa, experts warn covid scenario could worsen
As wheat harvesting season draws to a close in Punjab, 84 fire farms have been reported from south Malwa districts since April 15, even as the practice is banned. Punjab Pollution Control Board (PPCB) data shows that Mansa reported 25 rabi crop farm fires between April 15-25, the highest among seven the southern districts in the state. Bathinda and Fazilka have recorded 16 each, followed by Faridkot (10), Moga (8), Ferozepur (9) and Muktsar (2).
Sources said the cases may increase in the next few weeks before paddy transplantation begins, also claiming that the number might be higher, as the data is based on satellite imageries taken by the State Remote Sensing Centre and some fires might have escaped its radar.
PPCB state nodal officer Ashok Sharma said in the corresponding last year, no major incident was reported due to the climatic conditions. “Around April 13 last year, parts of Punjab had witnessed spells of rain and hailstorm, and it had delayed harvest. The PPCB started monitoring fires on April 15. Data has been sent to the field staff for cross-verification and to fine the erring farmers,” Sharma added.
Bathinda chief agriculture officer (CAO) Bahadur Singh Sidhu said nothing alarming has been noticed. “Wheat stubble is used to make dry fodder for cattle, and few farmers burn only leftover roots. These roots can be easily mixed into the soil, but some farmers find it easier to burn it,” he said.
33 INSTANCES IN SANGRUR
Sangrur district has reported 33 cases of wheat residue burning to date, even as the state is battling covid-19 pandemic. The smoke due to stubble burning is likely to worsen the respiratory disease in patients. Farmers claim that if they do not burn the wheat crop residue, their fields will consume more water during preparation for next crop.
“Farmers are helpless and have to burn stubble. If the government takes action, we will oppose it,” said Gobinder Singh, Sangrur block chief of BKU (Ekta-Ugrahan). PPCB executive engineer Rajeev Gupta said no challans had been issued yet.
Sangrur chief agriculture officer Jaswinder Pal Singh Grewal said it was irresponsible of farmers to burn crop residue. “There is no need to burn wheat residue, as it can be managed easily. Nodal officers are looking into the matter,” added Grewal. Dr Rahul Gupta, of Sangrur civil hospital, said the residue burning practice is harmful amid Covid-19 pandemic as the smoke affects throat and lungs.
“People suffering from asthma and old allergies are prone to covid infection and residue burning precipitates it. This time, covid patients are coming in large numbers from villages. If stubble burning cases increase, the number of covid patients will also rise,” added Dr Gupta.