A farmer burns paddy stubble, in Rupnagar distric.(PTI)
A farmer burns paddy stubble, in Rupnagar distric.(PTI)

Working on long-term solution to stubble burning: Air commission

A combination of extremely high number of stubble fires in Punjab, low to calm winds in the region and subsidence of air had led to Delhi recording “severe” air quality for six days consecutively since November 5 this month.
By Jayashree Nandi | Hindustan Times, New Delhi
UPDATED ON NOV 26, 2020 02:40 AM IST

Instead of a piecemeal approach, the Commission for Air Quality Management in National Capital Region and Adjoining Areas (CAQM) is consulting north-western states to find out a workable, long-term solution to the problem of stubble burning in Punjab, Haryana and other places, which leads to an air emergency in Delhi-NCR every year, MM Kutty, chairperson of the newly formed body has said.

A combination of extremely high number of stubble fires in Punjab, low to calm winds in the region and subsidence of air had led to Delhi recording “severe” air quality for six days consecutively since November 5 this month. At present, the contribution of stubble fires to Delhi’s PM 2.5 load is negligible but the commission has started preparing for next year, which is also a pre-election year for Punjab.

“We have a forward-looking approach. We are working on identifying long-term solutions to this problem (stubble burning). A workable solution will be attempted by the commission in consultation with all stakeholders so that the problem does not arise in future,” Kutty said.

“Now, stubble burning is over but a mechanism is needed to ensure it doesn’t happen next year. We are also trying to establish the wherewithal to implement various measures to control the spike in winter pollution. CPCB (Central Pollution Control Board) should continue to do its job,” he said.

Kutty said the commission will try to avoid temporary fixes and presently does not have the staff and infrastructure to do large scale monitoring, which is being worked on.

The commission has recently got an office in Yusuf Sarai from where its four full-time members are working.

Stubble fires in Punjab increased by 46.5% this year compared to last year while they reduced by 28.6% in Haryana, according to an assessment note released by CPCB on Tuesday.

In Punjab, the total count of active fire events reported in the year 2020 was 76,537 while in 2019, it was 52,225 (September 21 to November 22). Sangrur, Bathinda and Firozpur continued to record the highest fire counts and reported an increase of 45.7%, 35% and 40.5% respectively, compared to last year. Moga, Amritsar, Fazilka, Ludhiana have shown more than 75% increase in fire counts in comparison to 2019.

In 2020, all the districts of Punjab, except SBS Nagar, have shown an upward trend in fire counts and have witnessed the lack of ground level implementation of the centrally supported in-situ mechanisation scheme for crop stubble management.

The average contribution of stubble burning to PM 2.5 load in Delhi has increased from 10% (October 11 – December 10, 2019) to 15.63% (October 10 – November 22, 2020).

In 2020, Delhi’s PM2.5 load was more than 10% on 26 days between October 10 and November 22 and on 21 days in the same period in 2019.

In Haryana, the total fire counts this year was 4,675 compared to 6,551 last year (September 25 - November 22). Fatehabad, Kaithal and Karnal continued to record highest fire counts but recorded a reduction by 40% compared to last year. Fire counts in Palwal and Kurushetra reduced by 50-60%.

“This year, fires have been higher than last year because farmers haven’t used the straw management machinery subsidised by the Centre. They were protesting against three farm bills. Many of the fires were to register their protest. Large-scale protests are still underway. Lakhs of farmers are demanding withdrawal of the laws. Harvest of paddy and fires are now over,” said Harinder Singh Lakhowal, general secretary, Bharatiya Kisan Union.

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