Though early days, the number of crop fires reported out of Punjab are at a three-year low, suggests data from the Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI) that tracks such fires via satellite. Only 320 fires have been reported this year, as opposed to 620 and 1,935 in 2021 and 2020 respectively.
The Consortium for Research on Agroecosystem Monitoring and Modelling from Space (CREAMS), run by the IARI, monitors stubble burning and provides daily reports.
Uttar Pradesh, however, saw a rise in instances, shows the data till October 6, with 80 crop burning events recorded in the State this year as opposed to 52 last year. In 2020, there were 101 incidents reported. So far, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, and Delhi reported instances of burning that are in single digits.
Ahead of the crop burning season, the Centre had undertaken a review meeting with States, on September 30, in the Delhi-NCR territory and adjoining States of Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan. In a press statement from the Environment Ministry, Union Environment Minister Bhupendra Yadav had expressed his “concern and dis-satisfaction” over the preparedness in Punjab in taking concrete action towards Air Quality Management. He said in the meeting that Punjab “had not planned adequately” for managing around 5.75 million tons of stubble which would likely have an adverse impact on the air quality in Delhi and NCR region.
Agricultural experts said it is too early to predict if instances of crop burning would be less in Punjab and Haryana this year compared to previous years. “While there is a 6% reduction in acreage under rice (in Punjab) this year due to erratic rains, it would be premature to assume that burning would be less. Instances of stubble burning rise through the season and peak around November. We still have to wait a few weeks to discern a trend,” said Dr Ravindra Khaiwal, Professor at PGIMER’s department of community medicine and School of Public Health, Chandigarh.
During the transition from monsoons to winter, reduced windspeeds cause pollutants in the Indo-Gangetic plain to be flushed out less easily. Thus, emissions from stubble burning by farmers in Punjab and Haryana, who are preparing their fields for sowing the winter crop, add to air pollution woes in downstream Delhi.
Meanwhile, on the back of air quality dipping in Delhi, the Commission for Air Quality Management in NCR and Adjoining Areas (CAQM) on Wednesday announced an immediate ban on all construction and demolition activity unregistered with the authority.