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STUBBLE BURNING in Haryana was higher in 2016 compared to the previous two years, a new study has found. This has set alarm bells ringing for anti-pollution officials in the state because of its serious implications for air quality in the entire region, including the national capital.
The study covered crop burning over four years — from 2013 to 2016. Satellite data for the study was acquired from National Remote Sensing Centre, Hyderabad, for the harvest period — early October to end-November, 2016 — and has been analysed by scientists of Haryana Space Applications Centre (HarSAC).
The study was conducted on the request of Haryana State Pollution Control Board ( HSPCB) in the districts which witnessed large-scale rice stubble burning: Ambala, Fatehabad, Jind, Kaithal, Karnal, Kurukshetra, Panipat, Sirsa, Sonipat and Yamunanagar. The study was aimed at monitoring changes in the area over the years 2013, 2014, 2015 to assess the effect of campaign against rice stubble burning in open fields. These districts together account for more than 84 per cent of the state’s rice cultivation area.
Paddy stubble was burnt over an area of 202.3 thousand hectares in 2016, 163 thousand hectares in 2015, 168.9 thousand hectares in 2014 and 208.3 thousand hectares in 2013. The area across which stubble was burnt saw a fall in 2014 and 2015. But 2016’s data shows a sharp jump of 24.1 per cent.
“The figures are a cause for concern because it happened despite our intense campaign and increased surveillance against stubble burning,” said S Narayanan, secretary, HSPCB.
“We will make more efforts in coordination with the state agriculture department to curb the problem,” he added.
Narayanan told The Indian Express that they had only recently received the report from HarSAC and that they would need to study it more before finalising the next course of action.
The study indicates that area across which stubble is burnt was high in three northern districts of Karnal, Kaithal and Kurukshetra and the western district of Fatehabad. It has been found to be moderate in Sirsa, Ambala and Jind districts. The same trend was observed in these districts in 2013, 2014 and 2015 except for Jind district, which moved from less to the moderate category in 2016 due to increase in the area.
Planting of rice in Haryana takes place in June and July and paddy is harvested from the first fortnight of October to the first fortnight of November. The HarSAC report has pointed out that mechanised combine harvesting, which has become common in the region, leaves behind large quantities of straw in the field. After harvest, the waste rice straw is frequently burned in open fields because there is insufficient time to dispose it of in a more controlled manner before the next crop is planted, the report said.
Experts say that besides releasing polluting gases in the atmosphere, burning of stubble kills useful micro flora of the soil causing soil degradation.