Although in the early days, the number of reported crop fires in Punjab is at its lowest in three years, suggests data from the Indian Institute of Agricultural Research (IARI) which tracks such fires via satellite. Only 320 fires have been reported this year, compared to 620 and 1,935 in 2021 and 2020 respectively.
The Consortium for Research on Agroecosystem Monitoring and Modeling from Space (CREAMS), managed by IARI, monitors stubble burning and provides daily reports.
Uttar Pradesh, however, has seen a surge in cases, data up to October 6 shows, with 80 crop burning events recorded in the state this year compared to 52 last year. In 2020, 101 incidents were reported. So far, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Delhi have reported single-digit fire cases.
Ahead of the burning season, the Center had undertaken a review meeting with States on September 30 in the territory of Delhi-NCR and neighboring states of Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan. . In a press statement from the Ministry of Environment, Union Environment Minister Bhupendra Yadav had expressed his “concern and dissatisfaction” over Punjab’s readiness to take concrete steps towards the management of air quality. He told the meeting that Punjab ‘did not adequately plan’ for the management of around 5.75 million tonnes of thatch which would likely negatively impact air quality in Delhi. and in the NCR region.
Agricultural experts said it was too early to predict whether instances of crop burning would be fewer in Punjab and Haryana this year compared to previous years. “Although there is a 6% reduction in area 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 increase throughout the season and peak around November. We still have to wait a few more weeks to discern a trend,” said Dr Ravindra Khaiwal, Professor in the Department of Community Medicine and School of Public Health at PGIMER, Chandigarh.
During the transition from monsoon to winter, the reduction in wind speed makes it less easy for pollutants to evacuate from the Indo-Gangetic plain. For example, emissions from stubble burning by farmers in Punjab and Haryana preparing their fields for sowing winter crops are compounding air pollution problems downstream of Delhi.
Meanwhile, following declining air quality in Delhi, the Commission for Air Quality Management in the NCR and Adjacent Areas (CAQM) on Wednesday announced an immediate ban on all construction and demolition activity not registered with the authority.