For the first two weeks of paddy harvesting that started from September 21 this year, the number of stubble burning fire cases has been recorded at 1,206.
For the first two weeks of paddy harvesting that started from September 21 this year, the number of stubble burning fire cases has been recorded at 1,206. This is almost five-time the number of cases (264) recorded during the kharif harvest of 2019 in the corresponding time period. State authorities are worried at this trend.
Amritsar has reported more than 50% of total stubble fires, recording 686 cases. It is followed by 259 in Tarn Taran, Gurdaspur (50) and Patiala (60). All districts where most cases have been reported sow early-growing paddy varieties.
“State agencies have taken tough measures this season, as compared to the previous kharif harvest and were expecting fires to be in control. Things, however, have gone awry,” said an officer of the state’s agriculture department. He attributed the early harvest for the spike in cases.
The Punjab Pollution Control Board (PPCB), however, downplays the rise. “It is beginning of the season and the actual trend would be known by the last week of October when we are in middle of the season,” said board’s member secretary Krunesh Garg. In 2018 and 2019 seasons, the number of cases crossed 50,000 and Garg hoped there will be a reduction in this number.
To check these fires, the state government has authorised 8,000 nodal officers to keep vigil in paddy growing villages. There are 10,500 villages in the state, where paddy has been grow over 66 lakh acre this year. Of this, 17.5 lakh acre is long grain aromatic basmati.
350 farmers have been fined Rs 9.3 lakh
The PPCB has imposed environment compensation of Rs. 9.3 lakh on 350 farmers caught burning paddy stubble this year. Another 98 cases are under process to identify the violator. State agencies do not have a system to recover the compensation and have written to the National Green Tribunal to suggest a model. “We are waiting for a reply from the tribunal,” a PPCB official said.
The PPCB has challaned owners of five harvest machines for working without the Super Straw Management System (SMS) that state government has made mandatory. The SMS system helps in in-situ management of paddy straw. “Each machine was fined Rs 50,000,” SS Marwaha, PPCB chairman.