Punjab has not reported any case of stubble burning so far even as over 70 per cent of the wheat crop has already been harvested. This comes as a major relief at a time when the government and masses are waging a battle against the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
The burning of wheat stubble had already started by this time last year though it was not in big numbers. In 2018 also, 72 fires had been reported from across state by April 25.
“Burning of wheat straw means createing an excess of particulate matter in the air, which is quite harmful for the people with respiratory illness. The smoke also leads to irritation in the eyes, throat and affect lungs of the normal people,” say experts.
Dr Anil Sood, head of the ACM Division, Punjab Remote Sensing Centre (PRSC), Ludhiana, which has been recording the field fires through the satellite system, says, “This year, not a single case of stubble burning has been reported from across the sate while it had already started last year by this time. If farmers stay away from this, it would be a big contribution on their part in the fight against COVID-19”.
Even the farmers’ unions that used to provoke farmers to burn the crop stubble if the government failed to provide them with compensation for not setting the fields on fire, are now urging the agriculturists to desist from doing so.
Bhartiya Kisan Union (Dakuanda) general secretary Jagmohan Singh said that they have already appealed to the farmers to not burn the leftover of the wheat stubble especially a time when the country is fighting the pandemic. He said that the stubble smoke hits the respiratory system and people with respiratory illness are more prone to get infected by the novel coronavirus. He said that took the decision not to burn the stubble after consulting various doctors.
“We are ready to bear the economic burden of managing the leftover stubble while preparing the fields for the next crop cycle,” said he, adding that government should allow paddy sowing from June 1 this year as the shortage of labour can create trouble for farmers.
Member secretary of Punjab Pollution Control Board (PPCB), Krunesh Garg, said that they too have issued an appeal to the farmers urging them not to burn the crop residue.
In 2019, Punjab had burnt over 50 per cent acreage under wheat crop to clear the stubble and its leftover. This was 10 per cent more than the acreage set on fire in 2018. According to Punjab Remote Sensing Centre (PRSC), 17.81 lakh hectare of the total 35.02 lakh hectare under wheat was set on fire last year.
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