Punjab on Sunday recorded 3,230 farm fires, the highest in a single day this season, taking the total number of stubble-burning cases to 17,403. Of this, as many as 11,119 cases were reported in the last seven days alone, according to data from Ludhiana-based Punjab Remote Sensing Centre (PRSC).
Officials attributed the sudden spike to a shorter window farmers had to prepare the fields for the next crop — wheat — and said that the next seven days would be crucial to see the “positive results” of fewer cases this year.
“Though the cases reported to date are fewer compared to the corresponding period in the previous years, the sudden spike is due to delayed harvesting. Nearly 25% of harvesting is still pending in the areas where paddy sowing was delayed due to floods. Moreover, harvesting of Basmati 1121 is also undergoing in the state,” said Punjab agriculture director Jaswant Singh.
He added that the district administrations across the state were working to implement the state action plan to minimise the number of cases.
According to PRSC, Sangrur topped the chart with 551 active stubble-burning cases followed by 299 in Ferozepur, 293 in Mansa, 247 in Bathinda, 189 in Barnala, 184 in Ludhiana, 179 in Moga and 177 in Tarn Taran. Patiala recorded 169 active cases, while Faridkot registered 163 cases and Jalandhar 155 cases. Meanwhile, SAS Nagar recorded the lowest with only one active case recorded on Sunday.
A Punjab Pollution Control Board (PPCB) official said that paddy harvesting is in its last leg and the spike in the number of cases was evident as farmers were rushing to prepare their fields for the next crop, wheat.
“More than 12,000 cases registered in the past week shows that harvesting was at its peak. It is a case of worry as fewer farm fires were reported in the corresponding period last year,” said the official.
The state reported 5,327 and 2,817 farm fires on November 5, 2021 and 2022, respectively. The total cases reported in the state during the corresponding period in 2022 and 2021 were 29,400 and 28,792, respectively.
After reporting fewer cases initially this season, Punjab recorded a surge in stubble-burning from the last week. On October 30 (Monday), only 6,284 cases were reported.
“The increase in stubble-burning cases was expected as the paddy harvesting is at its peak in south Punjab. This is the reason that most of the cases have been reported from Firozpur, Bathinda, Mansa and Sangrur districts,” said an agriculture official, seeking anonymity.
The air quality continued to worsen in the state with thick smog engulfing almost all the districts, also leading to poor visibility.
According to the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) data, Bathinda recorded the worst air quality index (AQI) at 386, which falls under the “very poor” category followed by 288 in Mandi Gobindgarh (poor), 256 in Jalandhar, 254 in Khanna, 245 in Patiala and 235 in Ludhiana.
Combustion sources lead pollutant: CSE study
Meanwhile, a Centre for Science study has revealed that Delhi’s lead pollutant is combustion sources, with the share of PM2.5 in the total PM10 concentration over 50%. Combustion sources include vehicles, industries and the burning of biomass.
The study also said Delhi’s average nitrogen dioxide (NO2) concentration — largely due to vehicular emissions — has also seen an uptick by around 60% compared to the first week of October.
“While coarser PM10 comes largely from dust sources, the tinier PM2.5 comes more from vehicles, industry and open burning,” said CSE.
CSE’s analysis added that PM2.5 was not Delhi’s only worry, with NO2 levels rising too. “City-wide average NO2 is up by 60% compared to the first week of October last year,” said the analysis, adding that certain high traffic locations were now reporting levels as high as three-four times the 24-hour standard of 80 µg/m3 — including ITO, Nehru Nagar and Siri Fort.
(With inputs from Jasjeev Gandhiok)