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In 6 days, stubble burning cases see four-fold jump in Punjab

The number jumped from 3,228 cases on October 22 to 12,776 on October 28

punjab Updated: Oct 30, 2018 10:52 IST
Vishal Rambani
Vishal Rambani
Hindustan Times
stubble burning,air quality index,Arvind Kejriwal
Despite ban, a farmer setting paddy stubble on fire in his fields at Mote Majra village in Kharar tehsil of Mohali in Monday. (Gurpreet Singh/HT)

Satellite images show fire incidents treble with most cases reported from Malwa belt

Satellite images show that the number of paddy stubble burning cases has gone up by four times in six days though it is still less than the number of fires in the corresponding period in previous years.

With the air quality index deteriorating to very poor in the national capital region on Monday and Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal blaming the farmers of Punjab and Haryana, the Capt Amarinder Singh government was left red-faced as satellite images showed the number of red dots, where each represents a fire incident, had gone up.

In past six days , the number of stubble burning incidents in Punjab touched 12,776, while the state saw 3,228 cases from September 27 to October 22.

On Sunday, when Prime Minister Narendra Modi lauded Punjab farmers for their role against stubble burning, 3,162 incidents were reported from the state with most found in Ferozepur and Patiala districts.

“Most fire incidents are now in the Malwa belt, which comprises 60% of Punjab’s area,” said a Punjab Pollution Control Board official, adding that teams have been told to fan out and counsel farmers.

Despite the spurt, the number of fires is lower as compared to the corresponding period in 2017 when 27,000 such incidents were reported. Last year, Punjab recorded a total of 44,000 stubble fires.

The air quality index (AQI) of Punjab was 155, which is moderate, on Monday, while Delhi’s AQI index was 367, considered very poor.

Patiala, the hometown of the chief minister, reported 1,457 fires till Sunday and is second only to Tarn Taran district, where 1,593 cases were reported.

To manage straw without burning, the government supplied 24,315 subsidised agro-machines to farmers, cooperative societies and custom hiring centres this year. It appointed nodal officers in 8,000 villages.

“I held a video conference with deputy commissioners of the state and asked them to caution farmers and penalise violators,” agriculture secretary and state nodal officer Kahan Singh Pannu said.

He blamed farm union leaders for instigating farmers. “In many areas, there was symbolic burning of straw on less than 200 square yards but that has been recorded in satellite images.

Otherwise, the AQI is better than last year when it was around 300,” he said. Paddy is grown on 65 lakh acres in Punjab. After harvest, 20 million tonnes of paddy straw is left in fields to be managed by farmers before sowing the next rabi crop.

First Published: Oct 30, 2018 10:26 IST