Farmers in the state of Punjab began their annual exercise of burning stubble and choking the National Capital with thick smog.
According to reports, 147 farm fires broke out in Punjab between September 15 and 30. An additional 128 farm fires were recorded on October 1 and October 2. With 75 new incidents of farm fires on Monday (October 3), the number of cases reached 350.
Amritsar and Tarn Tarn districts of Punjab became the main hotspots of farm fires, with the former accounting for 284 cases (80% of total incidents). Farmers in these two regions grow potatoes, which should be sown in early October. As such, they start burning the stubble from mid to late September onwards.
As farmers in Amritsar ramped up their usual activity, the air quality in the area began to deteriorate. On Monday (September 3), Amritsar’s AQI was 138 while it was 104, and 119 in Ludhiana and Jalandhar respectively.
Weak wind movement, with adverse weather conditions, has trapped particles in the surface air and is likely to wreak havoc in the Delhi-NCR region soon. According to Gufran Baig, founder and project director at SAFAR (System for Air Quality and Weather Forecasting and Research), Delhi is likely to witness the impact of farm fires from October 10 onwards.
However, there is no hope for an immediate solution to the problem. Punjab Pollution Control Board (PPCB) Member Secretary Krunesh Garg informed that it will take 4-5 years to completely stop stubble burning activities.
“Crop diversification is not a long-term solution because biomass will also be produced from other crops,” he said. “We need both in situ and ex situ solutions and they are already being implemented on the ground at the block and village level.” But it will still take four or five years to fully resolve,” he further added.
The discussion on the farm fires has collapsed in the Punjab Assembly
Despite the pressing issue of farmers’ fires, the Punjab Assembly postponed discussion on the subject. “The issue was not taken up as most of the session was discussed about the alleged usurpation of SC scholarship funds to the tune of Rs 64 crore by the previous Congress party government,” it reported. Hindustan Times.
Congress leader Pratap Singh Bajwa directly accused the Aam Aadmi Party-led Punjab government of not discussing key issues like stubble burning, GST and power shortage.
AAP MLA Inderbir Singh Nijjar shifted the blame to the opposition. “When the issue (of stubble burning) was brought up, but the opposition did not allow the house to function smoothly, and the matter lost in sloganeering by Congress MPs,” he alleged.
When AAP blamed the Punjab government for the danger of stubble burning
In 2018, AAP supremo Arvind Kejriwal will blame the Punjab government for its failure to control farm fires in the state. “If you look honestly, then there are only a few seats of Haryana in it. In Punjab, stubble is being burnt in the entire district, especially Bathinda and Amritsar,” he said then.
However, the same Amritsar district is a major hotspot of farm fires under the AAP regime. With the government failing to curb the problem, people in Delhi are left with no hope but to pray for monsoon rains in the state of Punjab.
According to data collected by the Consortium for Research on Monitoring and Modeling of Agroecosystems from Space (CREAMS), farmers took a break from stubble burning between September 24 and 29 this year.
“We saw a spell from September 24 to 29, when no fires were reported. This was mainly due to the rains in Punjab and the fields remained wet for the next few days so the stubble stubble could not be burnt,” informed Professor V.K. Sehgal from KREMS.
As such, only the late monsoon rains can only provide respite to the residents of Delhi-NCR. This kind of magic is expected between October 5 and 9 this year. He said: “We may see a spike in activity again from October 10 onwards or a little later than that.”