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Smoggy Days Ahead in Delhi; Why Punjab Can’t Proactively Tackle Farm Fires Like Haryana, UP

Delhi-NCR people woke up to hazy skies on Tuesday as the Air Quality Index (AQI) plunged further to ‘severe’ category with stubble burning incidents in Punjab increasing amid a complete failure by the AAP government to control the situation while farm fires have come down in neighbouring Haryana and Uttar Pradesh, sources say.

The air quality could further dip in the coming days as a large section of sown area in Punjab will be harvested this week, as only 45-50% area has been harvested till October 24. Out of total 10,214 reported cases in Punjab till October 28, 7,100 stubble burning incidents (about 69%) have been reported in the week before from October 21-28. There is a 34% rise in farm fires in Punjab this year compared to last year, showing the state government’s failure.

Haryana, however, has been able to bring down the farm fire events this year with 1,701 such incidents reported from the state between September 15 and October 28 compared to 2,252 incidences for the same period last year, which translated to a reduction of about 25%.

NCR districts of Uttar Pradesh have also reported a fewer farm fires.

Nearly 71% of farm fires in Punjab have been reported from seven districts namely Amritsar, Sangrur, Firozpur, Gurdaspur, Kapurthala, Patiala and Tarn Taran. Sangrur is the home district of chief minister Bhagwant Mann.

Stubble burning incidents in Punjab

Machines Not Used

Sources in the central government have pointed out the under-utilisation of available machines for treating stubble in Punjab and while many tools have remained idle, causing a serious drain of resources.

A total of more than 1,20,000 machines are available in Punjab, which have been procured by Punjab through the funds to the tune of Rs 1,347 crore provided by the Centre to the state government through its CRM scheme. Farmers have also been complaining in Punjab that these machines never reached their fields.

Bio-Decomposer Not Deployed

The Centre also said despite successful field experience with application of bio-decomposer for in-situ management of stubble in the state of Uttar Pradesh and also in the NCT of Delhi, no efforts were made in Punjab for employing this effective technique for management of stubble. “Even the CSR initiative by a private organisation for bio-decomposer application was not facilitated in Punjab. No significant efforts are also evident towards enhancing the use of straw for various ex-situ applications and for supply of fodder to fodder-deficient areas,” says a government source.

Stubble burning incidents in Haryana
Stubble burning incidents in Haryana

The awareness campaign launched in Punjab has also been highly ineffective as reflected in the substantially higher fire incidences this year, sources say. “Ineffective monitoring and enforcement at the field level is also very evident despite more than 8,000 nodal officers reported to be deployed for the purpose by Punjab,” sources say.

Bad Days Ahead, Centre Kept Warning

The contribution of stubble burning in the air quality will surely increase in the coming days if the Punjab government does not take any strict action, sources in the Centre warn. The Centre says it had held meetings earlier chaired by the Union Ministers of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare, Environment, Forests and Climate Change and Fisheries, Animal Husbandry & Dairying with Punjab Government Ministers and officers but the results have not been up to the mark.

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