The Punjab has recorded around 74,000 stubble-burning incidents this season, the most in four years, with experts saying anger over farm bills and the government’s failure to pay the court-ordered financial incentive to farmers supreme could be one of the reasons for the outbreak of farm fires.
According to data released by the Punjab Remote Sensing Center, the state recorded 73,883 thatch burning incidents between September 21 and November 14, the highest since 2016.
The Punjab had reported 51,048 cases of stubble burning in the corresponding period last year and 46,559 such incidents in 2018. The number of farm fires was 43,149 in the state during the same period in 2017.
An official from the Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI) said that the stubble burning incidents reached their peak between November 4 and 7.
According to the air quality monitor of the Ministry of Earth Sciences, SAFAR, the share of thatch burning in Delhi-NCR’s pollution peaked at 42% on November 5, when 4,135 farm fires were reported. registered in the region.
“It was a bumper harvest this year, so the amount of crop residue was also important. Also, it was a cloudless season compared to last year. The biomass was drier and prone to burn.
“It also appears that the farmers are unwilling to cooperate. There could be anger over farm bills,” he said.
According to a Punjabi government official, “the farmers are not satisfied” because the waiver of the ruling did not provide them with the financial incentive under Supreme Court guidelines to prevent stubble burning.
Following Supreme Court directives to urge farmers to stop stubble burning, the governments of Punjab and Haryana announced a premium of Rs 2,500 per acre for small and marginal farmers last year. Farmers say the incentive can help them cover the cost of fuel used to run machines for in situ stubble management.
Harinder Singh Lakhowal, secretary general of Union Bharatiya Kisan, Punjab, also said the number of farm fires is “very high this year and anger over farm bills is one of the main reasons “.
“The unavailability of workers – many of whom have returned to their countries of origin due to the COVID-19 pandemic – is also a reason why farmers burn stubble to quickly clear fields,” he said. added.
The IARI official said the increase in the number of stubble burning incidents does not mean that the policy of providing agricultural equipment for in situ crop residue management has failed.
“The number of stubble burning incidents in Haryana and Uttar Pradesh tells a whole different story. The numbers have dropped considerably, ”he said.
According to IARI data, Haryana recorded 4,699 farm fires between October 1 and November 12, while Uttar Pradesh reported 2,288 such incidents during the period, which is the most low in both states over the past five years.
Haryana recorded 5,807 cases of stubble burning and Uttar Pradesh 2,653 cases in the corresponding period last year.
“In the Punjab, too, the number of cases was decreasing every year until 2019. Only 2020 was the ‘strange’ year,” said the IARI official.
According to a study conducted by IARI scientists in the districts of Tarn Taran and Amritsar in Punjab, thatch burning incidents between October 1 and October 10 in Amritsar increased from 180 in 2019 to 515 in 2020, an increase of about 2.9 times.
In the Tarn Taran, the number of thatch burning incidents increased from 92 in 2019 to 341 in 2020, an increase of about 3.7 times.
“It is estimated that the harvested area increased by 35,500 hectares in Amritsar and 39,300 hectares in Tarn Taran by October 10 of this year compared to last year.
“This indicates a significant early paddy harvest in these two districts this year, which may be due to early paddy planting of around 7-10 days, an increase in the proportion of area devoted to short-lived varieties and a clear weather in 2020 compared to cloudy weather in 2019 during the same period, ”the study said.
“On October 10, the proportion of the area burned in relation to the area harvested in Amritsar increased from 38% in 2019 to 74.6% in 2020. In Tarn Taran, it went from 30.9% in 2019 to 60.9% in 2020 ”, added.
Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh are gaining attention during the rice harvest season between October 15 and November 15.
Farmers set their fields on fire to quickly remove crop residues left after harvesting the rice and before growing wheat and potatoes. This is one of the main reasons for the alarming spike in pollution in Delhi-NCR.
Last year, the Punjab produced around two crore tonnes of paddy residue, of which 98 lakh was burned by farmers.
Farmers in Haryana burned 12.3 lakh tonnes of the 70 lakh tonnes of paddy residue produced.
Despite the ban on stubble burning in Punjab and Haryana, farmers continue to challenge it because there is a short window between the paddy harvest and the sowing of wheat.
The high cost of manually or mechanically managing straw is one of the main reasons farmers choose to burn straw.
State governments grant 50-80% subsidy to farmers and cooperative societies to purchase modern farm equipment for in situ rice straw management, install rice straw power plants and carry out extensive campaign awareness campaign against stubble burning.