Centre faults Punjab’s farm fires for Delhi’s air pollution problem

Data from the Indian Agricultural Research Institute’s satellite monitoring division suggest that of the 35,350 crop residue burning events recorded in 2023, 65% have been reported out of Punjab.

Updated - November 10, 2023 10:08 am IST

Published - November 09, 2023 10:29 pm IST - NEW DELHI

A farmer burns stubble to remove paddy crop residues from a field, near Punkab’s Patiala on November 9, 2023.

A farmer burns stubble to remove paddy crop residues from a field, near Punkab’s Patiala on November 9, 2023. | Photo Credit: PTI

With Delhi’s air pollution plummeting precipitously and no respite expected in the weeks ahead, a meeting chaired by the Union Cabinet Secretary and senior officers of Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Delhi on November 8 concluded that the current crisis was “majorly” on account of stubble burning. Central government sources said 38% of the air pollution level was contributed by stubble burning.

Environment Minister Bhupendra Yadav said on X on Thursday that “...93% of farm fire (stubble burning) events this year have happened in Punjab and that was because the Aam Aadmi Party had failed to provide alternatives to farmers.” Since 2018, the Centre had given ₹1,426 crore to Punjab for crop residue management machines but to little effect, he alleged.

Data from the Indian Agricultural Research Institute’s satellite monitoring division suggest that of the 35,350 crop residue burning events recorded this year, 65% have been reported out of Punjab. So far 23,620 events — the lowest in four years — have been reported this year (September 15-November 9) from the State, compared to 34,868 last year and 69,372 in 2020. Haryana has only reported 1,676 events, or about 4%, down from 2,693 last year and much lower than the 4,753 in 2020. Madhya Pradesh, which ranks after Punjab, reported 3,032 instances — or about 8% — and down from the 4,374 last year.

Delhi air pollution: What you need to know right now?

However, nearly 32 lakh hectares have come under paddy in Punjab this year, compared to 13 lakh hectares in Haryana. The data from Madhya Pradesh was not immediately available.

‘Immediate steps’

At the meeting on Wednesday, officials said 90% of harvesting was complete in Haryana compared to 60% in Punjab and therefore “immediate steps” were necessary to curtail burning. The Supreme Court also directed States earlier this week to ensure that no more stubble was burnt.

The Centre said that the Commission for Air Quality Monitoring should be sending out ‘flying squads’ to Punjab and Haryana and monitoring farm fires.

Nearly 1.2 lakh seeder machines were made available to Punjab and 76,000 in Haryana and were these machines used optimally they could have prevented stubble burning to a large extent.

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