Spurt in stubble burning in Pakistan raises heat in Punjab
The Punjab government is working on war footing to curb farm fires ahead of the celebrations of 550 birth anniversary of Guru Nanak, but rising incidents of stubble burning in Pakistan, particularly near border areas of Punjab, have raised concern among scientists at Punjab remote sensing center (PRSC) and Punjab agricultural university (PAU).
In satellite images captured on October 8 and 9, the PRSC which is monitoring fire incidents in Punjab fields, has spotted many field fires emerging near bordering areas of Lahore, Basirpur, Havali Lakha area and Bahawal Nagar in Pakistan.
Senior scientist of PRSC Anil Sood said the number of farm fires is far higher as compared to early trends of stubble burning emerging from Majha area of Punjab. Beside Pakistan, paddy straw burning incidents have begun to emerge from area surrounding Kaithal, Pehowa and Ambala of poll-bound Haryana.
Sood said the trajectory of wind also plays an important role. Met department officials confirmed that the wind direction at present is north-westerly, which comes from Pakistan to India.
Dr Prabhjyot Kaur Sidhu, head of department, climate change and agricultural meteorology, said “In October, wind blows from North-West and there is a strong possibility that smoke particles could travel and pollute Indian cities including Delhi, where air quality is already on the decline.” She also said that as the month progresses, calm conditions may prevail wherein the smoke settles and is not disbursed properly, which result in smoky conditions that have been witnessed in previous years.
Sutantar Kumar Airi, director, agriculture Punjab, said that Pakistan has been repeatedly urged to curb farm fires, but it has evoked no response. “While the state is celebrating 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak, the neighbouring country is increasingly jeopardising the occasion,” said Airi.
PAU experts said burning of stubble leads to an alarming rise in the fine particulate matter (PM2.5) which is of serious concern for cities such as Amritsar, Ludhiana and Chandigarh. The situation could be alarming in New Delhi with average levels occasionally exceeding 700 micrograms (μg) to milligrams (mg).
Experts from Cornell and International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) in a recent study ‘Tradeoffs Between Groundwater Conservation and Air Pollution From Agricultural Fires in Northwest India’ stated that pollution, particularly caused by stubble burning, leads to an estimated 16,000 premature deaths caused every year in New Delhi capital region, with an aggregate reduction in life expectancy of 6 years.