Stubble burning: Despite NGT’s hue and cry, fires continue to rage on Punjab farmlands
Remote sensing dept records 1,002 incidents so far, burning expected to fall as compared to last season.punjab Updated: Oct 14, 2017 15:04 IST
Despite a lot of hue and cry raised by the National Green Tribunal (NGT), farmers in Punjab continue to resort to stubble burning. In its aerial surveys from September 27 to October 10, the state remote sensing department recorded incidents of raging fires at 1,002 points.
Thick smoke billowing from the farmlands of Punjab and Haryana is seen as one of the causes of smog over New Delhi’s skies at the onset of winters. Smoke from bursting of firecrackers around Diwali is another main reason behind smog.
In 2015, the NGT banned stubble burning but looking at the scale of paddy sown all over Punjab, the state agencies are finding it difficult to curb the practice.Last year, a total of 2,414 cases of stubble burning were reported in the state.
The claims of the Punjab Pollution Control Board (PPCB), agriculture directorate and the revenue department that there has been a drastic fall in the number of cases fall flat if one looks at the trend. With the paddy harvesting yet to start in southwestern Punjab and the Majha belt, there is all likelihood that stubble burning incidents will rise.
This time, the PPCB has so far imposed Rs 6 lakh fine on 220 farmers for stubble burning. Last year, the PPCB had imposed Rs 30 lakh penalty on 736 farmers. In 2016, the Akali-BJP government chose not to act tough against stubble burning since the assembly elections were due in a few months (in January 2017).
This year, the farmer unions have asked farmers to defy the NGT order demanding Rs 3,000-4,000 per acre compensation to dispose of the paddy residue.“We are making efforts to stop farmers from burning stubble and many have agreed to this. There has been considerable fall in burning of stubble in Doaba belt,” PPCB chairman KS Pannu said.
In 2016, the Akali-BJP government chose not to act tough against stubble burning since the assembly elections were due in a few months (in January 2017).
“Farmers understand the problems caused by burning to the soil and environment and are gradually desisting from burning,” he said.
Bharatiya Kisan Union (Rajewal) president Balbir Singh Rajewal, who was also present at the NGT hearing, said, “I conveyed to the tribunal that it’s unbelievable that smoke from Punjab travels to New Delhi, and not from Haryana and Uttar Pradesh.” “Haryana has more number of burning cases,” he said.
Studies say stubble burning in Punjab, Haryana and UP contribute 12-60% of smog in New Delhi.
Apart from Rajewal, a group of farmers from Kalarmajri were also produced before the NGT by the state agriculture directorate. These farmers told the tribunal that the state government was taking adequate steps to check stubble burning. The NGT has fixed next hearing for October 17.