Patiala, October 1
From merely eight farm fires between September 15 and 26, the cases in Punjab rose sharply to 337 on October 1, with 123 of these being witnessed today as farmers prepare their fields for the next crop after harvesting paddy.
The border districts of Amritsar (86 farm fires) and Tarn Taran (20) account for nearly 30 per cent of the total cases. This day, last year, 45 cases came to the fore even as the state total stood at 192. The corresponding figures for 2021 were 13 and 228, respectively. In all, 49,900 farm fires were recorded in 2022, 71,304 in 2021, 76,590 in 2020 and 52,991 in 2019.
32 lakh hectares under paddy in Punjab this season
22 million tonnes of straw is expected to be generated
The Punjab Pollution Control Board (PPCB) along with the Agriculture Department starts monitoring air quality from September 15 onwards and the annual exercise continues till November 30. This season, paddy was sown on 32 lakh hectares and over 22 million tonnes of straw is expected to be generated. Officials said paddy straw (non-basmati) would be managed through in-situ (mixing crop residue in fields) and ex-situ (utilising stubble as fuel) methods.
They also said the in-situ stubble programme, started five years ago, was yet to achieve the desired results as managing over 20 million tonnes of stubble in about a month appeared “impossible”. Experts said farm fires this season had been much less in the initial two weeks, and that a rise was expected given the fact that the rain spells had delayed the harvesting by a fortnight. Farmers claimed due to a short window between paddy harvesting and sowing of wheat, they had little option but to resort to farm fires. “If we sow wheat without removing straw, the rabi crop gets infested with pests and weeds,” they said. Agriculture Department officials said they would create more awareness this time, emphasising “low yield cannot be linked to in-situ management of crop residue”.
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