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Can’t blame Punjab farmers for Delhi’s pollution, says state agriculture secretary

Punjab’s claim is based on the fact that the lower number of stubble burning cases has led to improved air quality for the state, while for Delhi the air quality continues to be severe.

punjab Updated: Oct 28, 2018 10:01 IST
Vishal Rambani
Vishal Rambani
Hindustan Times, Patiala
Punjab,Delhi’s pollution,Agriculture
For Punjab, the average Air Quality Index (AQI) during October was 100, with Delhi recording it at 400.(AFP)

With data from the Punjab Remote Sensing Centre (PSRC) showing 60% drop in stubble burning cases to 3,200-odd from September 27 to October 22 this year, from over 8,400 cases in the corresponding period last year, Punjab has said that Delhi must stop blaming the state’s farmers for its pollution. In 2016, the number of cases was even higher at over 13,000.

Punjab’s claim is based on the fact that the lower number of stubble burning cases has led to improved air quality for the state, while for Delhi the air quality continues to be severe.

For Punjab, the average Air Quality Index (AQI) during October was 100, with Delhi recording it at 400. Last year, at this time the AQI in the state was 326. An AQI between 0 and 50 is considered good, 50-100 is satisfactory, 101-200 is moderate, 201-300 is poor, above 301-400 is very poor, and above 401 is considered to be severe.

“Punjab is not liable for pollution in Delhi. The latest data of stubble burning and the AQI has vindicated it. Stubble burning incidents in Punjab have decreased and the state’s average AQI is near 100. In Delhi, the pollution has increased and the AQI is nearly 400. Delhi continues to have the same symptoms of the ailment (pollution problem). Thus, it should find the real cause, instead of blaming it on Punjab’s farmers,” said Kahan Singh Pannu, secretary, agriculture, Punjab-cum-state nodal officer of the anti-stubble burning campaign.

Last year, Pannu had submitted an affidavit in the National Green Tribunal, stating that Delhi could not blame Punjab’s farmers for causing pollution in the national capital.

‘State worked on two-tier strategy’

Pannu added that the state had worked on a two-tier strategy to check stubble burning. This included motivating farmers and providing equipment to handle the stubble.

“By the end of the season, we will exceed our target of providing 24,000 machines to farmers and are likely to distribute 30,000 such equipment,” he said.

Whether the number of stubble burning cases was likely to increase as paddy harvest has been delayed this year, he said, “Officials are maintaining a tight vigil. Farmers also realise the damage they cause to the environment. Almost half of the crop has reached the market, yet the number of incidents is 3,000. Last year, the figure was 50,000.”

A Punjab Pollution Control Board official said the number of cases last year had swelled as the chief minister had made a statement that farmers did not have the equipment to handle it. “This year, the CM has supplied equipment and the state is enforcing the law on stubble burning. The number of cases will increase soon.

A farm leader, Satnam Singh Behru, said, “Poor farmers cannot buy expensive machines. Farmers are likely to burn stubble in the coming days.”

First Published: Oct 28, 2018 09:41 IST