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Farm fires triggering respiratory issues among children, elderly in rural areas

Farm fires triggering respiratory issues among children, elderly in rural areas

Photo for representation. File photo

Tribune News Service

Mohit Khanna

Patiala, May 16

Jaspal Singh of Ghanurki village near Nabha brought his 10-year-old son Aftab Singh to the rural dispensary for check-up after he complained of difficulty in breathing and kept coughing throughout the night.

The condition of 11-year-old Gurmehraj Singh from Majhi village in Bhawanigarh of Sangrur is no different. He is on an inhaler. His father Davinder Singh, a progressive farmer, has taken him to Patiala, to protect him from allergies.

These are not stray cases, the setting of wheat residue on fire is not only damaging the soil health but pollution caused by it is also leading to a rise in infection cases among children and elderly in rural areas and villages across the state.

The state president of Rural Medical Services Association Dr JP Narula has flagged the issue and demanded a ban on residue burning stating that it had led to a rise in respiratory infection such as cough and throat allergies among children particularly in the village, while elderly residents are suffering from breathing difficulty.

He said that daily OPD check-ups, which used to be two or three patients till March, had risen up to 20 to 30 in some of the rural dispensaries of the state which are witnessing a high volume of farm fires.

He said that the majority of the residue is set on fire during the night when the temperature is low. Due to low temperature and still conditions, the smoke remains settled on the surface which leads to rise in allergies.

The state has reported 8,361 incidents of stubble burning till May 15, out of which 8,215, approximately 98 per cent cases have been reported in the past 15 days.

The Punjab Pollution Control Board officials voiced concern that the actual number of farm fires may be much higher than reported.

Satellite data on farm fires is collected until 4 pm, and some farmers reportedly set their fields on fire after this time so the incidents do not get captured by the satellite.

So far, highest number of farm fires have been reported in Gurdaspur district (1,003), Taran Taran (757), Ferozepur (749), Amritsar (654), Bathinda (549), Moga (493), Sangrur (472), Ludhiana (430), Hoshiarpur (405) and Fazilka (400).

Sources in the Agriculture Department said that the rise in farm fires is being witnessed as farmers are keen to prepare field well before the beginning of Kharif season.

Paddy cultivation for direct seeded rice (DSR) method has started from May 15. While sowing paddy through traditional puddling methods, the government has announced June 11 and June 15 for irrigation of fields.

The rise in farm fires have also deteriorated the air quality across the state with AQI index remaining in the poor category.

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#Agriculture #Environment #Farm Fires #Pollution

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