Even as farm fires raged on a large scale in Punjab during the stubble-burning season this winter, it was found that the total number of cases this season was the lowest in at least 11 years.
Punjab recorded a total of 49,899 farm fires until Monday as the season (September 15 - November 30) ends, satellite data compiled by the Consortium for Research on the Agroecosystem Monitoring & Modelling from Space (CREAMS) under the Indian Agricultural Research Institute suggested, as per a Times of India report.
This is a 30 per cent dip from the 2021 count of 71,304 and is significantly lower than the number of fires in 2020. There were 50,738 stubble-burning events in 2019 and 59,695 in 2018, the report said.
Stubble-burning events recorded prior to 2018 by Nasa’s VIIRS satellites show that the fires this year are the lowest since 2012. The season is nearing its end now, with the last two days recording less than 20 fires each.
Some of the reasons for the dip could be the state government’s awareness campaigns and 42,342 new subsidised crop residue management (CRM) machines, although farm unions continued to insist on financial assistance. The government claims to have provied 1.22 lakh CRM machines to farmers in the last few years, the TOI report said.
The Super Seeder machine, a new entrant introduced in 2019, was preferred by several farmers who had been convinced to switch over from stubble burning. However, a majority of the farmers in the state still continue to opt for stubble burning, citing a short window of time to prepare for the rabi crop season. A large number of small-scale farmers also cannot afford fuel for equipment.
The AAP-led Punjab government has been promoting the use of baler machines, and offering subsidies. However, while there are over thousands of applications from farmers seeking subsidy, the execution is challenging as most farmers complain that bales once formed aren’t collected on time and end up delaying harvesting even further.
Meanwhile, Haryana too saw a dip of about 25 per cent in stubble burning incidents this year with 1,701 farm fires between September 15 and October 28 compared to 2,252 last year.
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