Light rain brings temporary respite | Over 700 cases in state so far
Already facing a spurt in farm fires in the border belt, the air quality in Punjab is sure to take a further hit with farmers starting to burn the stubble in one of the largest areas of paddy cultivation in the Malwa belt.
Despite some light drizzle in certain parts, the state has so far witnessed over 714 farm fires, with Ludhiana and Tarn Taran reporting two and one case, respectively.
OUR JOB IS to MONITOR situation: PPCB
Our job is to monitor the situation and provide data to the govt and other authorities concerned for necessary action. We have tried to spread awareness and asked the district authorities to act against defaulters. —PPCB official
Experts suggest that the Malwa belt consists of many districts, which are expected to start the farm fires in the coming week and there could be a steep rise in the cases. “There is nothing much that can be done as the farmers are adamant on Rs 2,500 per acre compensation and the government hasn’t agreed to it. As is the case every season, there will be farm fires to prepare fields for the winter crop,” they added. “Cloud cover and some drizzle in the past two days delayed the farm fires. However, cases are going to surge in the next five days,” the experts warned.
The data from the Punjab Remote Sensing Authority showed that farmers were now resorting to farm fires in the fertile Malwa belt and the cases are likely to see a rise in the next two weeks when the Majha and Malwa belts will cultivate their paddy crop. “Ludhiana has already started and in the next five days, we will see a larger area under fire,” said an agriculture officer.
Information gathered from the Punjab Pollution Control Board (PPCB) and Agriculture Department officials confirmed that farm fires were fast spreading in the Malwa belt and would further affect the air quality index (AQI) of the state. “Due to clouds, many cases could not be reported, but there are ground-level reports that farm fires are now rising with each passing day,” they added.
Farmers are now resorting to stubble-burning as they have little window before preparing the fields for the next crop. Last year, Malwa fields were set on fire around October 15 and this year, it could start spreading a little earlier. “A majority of farm fires in the Malwa belt started two days ago and the number is only going to grow in the next 10 days,” said a top official.
Though the government has come up with an ex-situ stubble management policy, the primary focus is still on the in-situ technique.