WHILE WHEAT stubble burning has gone down by 40 per cent since last year in the state, which also recorded a satisfactory to moderate Air Quality Index (AQI) on Monday, the coming few weeks will be a major challenge for the Punjab Pollution Control Board (PPCB) as wheat harvesting season is almost complete and paddy sowing dates are drawing near.
Data sourced from the PPCB shows that till May 16, a total of 5,981 wheat stubble fire incidents have been recorded in Punjab against the 9,900 instances recorded on the same date last year. Punjab grows wheat on 35 lakh hectares, which produced over 200 lakh tonnes of wheat straw annually. The Doaba region — which has Jalandhar, Hoshiarpur, Nawan Shahr and Kapurthala districts — has recorded the lowest number of stubble burning incidents at 632 while the Majha region — which comprises Amritsar, Tarn Taran, Gurdaspur and Pathankot districts — has recorded 1,613 incidents. The Malwa region has recorded 3,736 cases with Sangrur and Bathinda districts at the top with 553 and 548 cases respectively.
“With paddy sowing about to begin from June 13, Punjab’s farmers may set more and more fields on fire to clear the leftover wheat stubble after making fodder,” said a senior PCCB officer, adding that till date, it is under control as compared to last season.
“In Punjab, around 90% of the wheat stubble is used to make dry fodder for cattle and only a small percentage of farmers are setting fields on fire. They are being educated by the department regularly about the bad effects of burning fields which kills several crop-friendly insects and causes pollution,” said director of the state agriculture department Dr Sutantra Kumar Airy, adding that after making fodder, only a little stubble, mainly roots, is left and this can be ploughed into the fields and it would get mixed with the soil by the time paddy sowing begins.
Dr Airy further said that thousands of farmers have been ploughing wheat stubble in the soil following several camps put up by the department to educate them. Engineer and PPCB Member Secretary Krunesh Garg, said that despite majority field staff being on poll duty they had been able keep stubble burning under control so far. Till April 25, there were no such cases in Punjab, while last year there were 72 on the same date.
Amritsar and Tarn Taran have recorded 536 and 518 stubble burning fire incidents respectively. Apart from Gurdaspur, Firozpur, Moga and Mansa have recorded 491, 363, 332 and 304 incidents respectively. Five districts have recorded less than 100 stubble burning incidents each which include 31, which is the lowest in state, in Rupnagar, 63 in SBS Nagar, 68 at Pathankot, 71 in SAS Nagar and 98 at Fatehgarh Sahib.
Last year, the maximum cases of stubble burning recorded in a single day was 1,500 on May 9, 2018, across the state. This year, the maximum number of cases were recorded on May 12 at 1,291. Last year, there were at least four days when over 1,000 to 1,500 fires were recorded on any single day. This year, there is only one day till date when over 1,000 fires were recorded. From May 12, the figures show a decline in stubble burning incidents with 400 incidents recorded on May 16.
In terms of air quality, the CPCB Amritsar recorded satisfactory AQI on Monday with 100 AQI. Ludhiana, Khanna, Mandi Gobindgarh, Bathinda, Jalandhar, Patiala and Rup Nagar also recorded moderate AQI with 101, 113, 166, 138, 151, 156 and AQI, respectively.
As per the parameters of the pollution control board the presence of Suspended Particulate Matter (RSPM) between 0-55 /cubic meter (mg/cm) in the air is considered good while a reading of 100 is permissible, satisfactory and moderate is between 101 to 220.