Punjab has recorded a sudden surge in stubble burning after a relatively smoke-less October, data showed. The state saw a 740 per cent increase on Sunday with 1,068 farm fire incidents – the highest in a single day in the current harvesting season. Saturday witnessed only 127 stubble-burning incidents.
NASA’s Worldview satellite has captured the stubble-burning incidents in Punjab between October 25 and 29. The farm fires are depicted by the red dots.
The October 26 image shows an increase in the red dot clusters as compared to October 25. After a significant rise in the number of fires on October 27, the next day (Saturday) witnessed a sharp decline.
But, the very next day on Sunday, farm fires were seen across large parts of the state.
The administration has now rushed its fire brigade team to extinguish the farm fires after the satellite image alert. Officials said where the fire brigade can’t reach, the fire is extinguished through other means
Significantly, despite the rising trend this season, there has been a 57 per cent decline in farm fires between September 15 to October 29 from last year.
From September 15 to October 29, the state witnessed a total of 5,254 farm fire incidents as against 12,112 such cases in the corresponding period last year.
However, this can be attributed to floods and other unexpected weather phenomena which delayed stubble burning. It is expected that harvesting activities will peak in the coming weeks, the Centre’s Commission for Air Quality Management (CAQM) said.
Paddy straw burning in Punjab and Haryana is considered one of the reasons behind the alarming spike in air pollution levels in the national capital in October and November.
As the window for the Rabi crop — wheat — is very short after paddy harvest, some farmers set their fields on fire to quickly clear off the crop residue for sowing of the next crop.
The Centre has allocated approximately Rs. 3,333 crore under the Crop Residue Management Scheme to the state governments of Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Delhi.
These funds support the subsidised procurement of machines by individual farmers, custom hiring centres and cooperatives for in-situ management of paddy straw and for baling/raking machines and equipment for ex-situ applications.