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Increased stubble burning in Punjab becomes serious environmental concern in Delhi, NCR

Out of total 10,214 reported cases, 7,100 burning incidents have been reported in the last 7 days alone

New Delhi: Increasing incidents of stubble burning in Punjab this year have become a matter of serious concern with the Union Environment Ministry pointing out that Air Quality Index (AQI) is likely to sharply deteriorate as only about 45-50 per cent of sown area in the state had been harvested till October 24.

Sources in the Environment Ministry told ANI that the contribution of stubble burning to the adverse air quality in Delhi and the National Capital Region has been increasing sharply and is about 18-20 per cent currently and with the trend is only likely to increase further. As per the Standard ISRO Protocol, for the period of September 15-October 28 this year, a total of 10,214 paddy residue burning events have been reported in Punjab compared to 7,648 for the same period during the last year, which is a significant increase of about 33.5 per cent.

“About 71 per cent of farm fires during the current paddy harvesting season have been reported only from seven districts namely Amritsar, Sangrur, Firozpur, Gurdaspur, Kapurthala, Patiala, and Tarn Taran. These have been traditional hot-spot districts in Punjab and focused attention was thus needed for these districts,” an environment ministry official told ANI.

Out of total 10,214 reported cases, 7,100 burning incidents have been reported in the last 7 days alone which is about 69 per cent, added the official.

Under directions of the Commission for Air Quality Management (CAQM), a comprehensive Action Plan was prepared by the Punjab government, with major pillars of action as diversification to other crops, diversification to low straw generating and early maturing paddy varieties; In-situ crop residue management; Bio-decomposer application; Ex-situ crop residue management; IEC activities; Monitoring and effective enforcement.

According to the official, the Centre through its CRM scheme has made funds available to Punjab alone to the tune of about Rs. 1,347 crore during the last 5 financial years, including the current year.

stubble burning

“Wide range of farm machinery to facilitate in-situ and ex-situ management of paddy stubble has been procured by the state of Punjab through the allocations made under the scheme. Including the additional procurement in the current year, a total of more than 1,20,000 machines are available in Punjab,” sources added.

More than 13,900 custom hiring centres (CHC) have been established in the state to facilitate farm machinery for in-situ and ex-situ farm applications under the CRM scheme.

Official sources added that the utilization of the available machinery has however been very poor and large number of machines have been allowed to remain idle, a serious drain on the resources.

“Despite successful field experience with the application of bio-decomposer for in-situ management of stubble in the state of Uttar Pradesh and also in the NCT of Delhi, no efforts were made in Punjab for employing this effective technique for management of stubble. GNCTD last year undertook an extensive publicity campaign to promote bio decomposers. Even the CSR initiative by a private organization for bio-decomposer application was not facilitated in Punjab,” the official added.

The official further added that no significant efforts were evident toward enhancing the use of straw for various ex-situ applications and for the supply of fodder to fodder-deficient areas.

“The IEC activities and campaigns launched by the state have been highly ineffective as reflected in the substantially higher fire incidents this year. Ineffective monitoring and enforcement at the field level is also very evident despite more than 8,000 nodal officers reported to be deployed for the purpose by the State Government,” noted the official.

“For effective implementation, consultative meetings were also held with major Departments concerned of Government of Punjab like Agriculture and Farmer’s Welfare, Environment, Power and Punjab Pollution Control Board and senior officials of the Government of Punjab from time to time, including reviews with the Chief Secretary and also at the level of Deputy Commissioners of the districts” the official added.

The official also noted that there were serious lapses in implementing farm fire control laws and the Government of Punjab is solely responsible for the failure of the governance and for creating a situation by which the people of NCR have to breathe highly polluted air and the continued inaction from the Government of Punjab will lead to further deterioration of the air quality index in the entire NCR adversely affecting health of people.