Stubble burning incidents lowest in Haryana in 3 years

  • | Saturday | 2nd December, 2023

GURGAON: At 2,303, Haryana has recorded fewer farm fires from September 15 to November 30 this year than in the same period the last three years. It is 37% down from 3,661 farm fires in 2022, 67% down from 6,987 in 2021 and 45% down from 4,202 in 2020.Since the rains did not continue into October like the previous years, farmers started burning paddy residue earlier to empty their fields for the next crop earlier this year.Experts said that a lower count of farm fires, estimated using satellite imagery collected by Nasa, showed that the steps being taken to deter stubble burning were working and farmers were switching to newer technologies.Government officials on Thursday pointed out that the total area under paddy cultivation in the state was down to 30.4 lakh acres this year, compared to 34 lakh acres in 2022 - a change that likely contributed to reducing farm fires.For years, NCR states have been announcing a flurry of measures to reduce stubble burning as it coincides with the winter pollution season and adds harmful particles to already toxic haze over northwestern India. Neighbouring Punjab - which usually has the highest number of farm fires among the states - also saw a similar trend. Between September 15 and November 30, Punjab recorded 36,663 instances of farm fires, a 26% drop from 49,922 in the same timeframe in 2022, 48% down from 2021 (71,304) and a 55% drop compared to 83,002 in 2020. "This year, the rains stopped in August, as a result of which farmers got enough time to manage straw and prepare their land for the next crop. Also, farmers are getting help on the ground and that is reflected in the numbers," said Shubhansh Tiwari, research associate at the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE)."Concluding this years post-monsoon crop burning season. MODIS (Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer) detected 24% and 37% fewer fires than in 2022 and the last five years average. It was the lowest farm fire occurrences since 2012," said Hiren Jethva, senior research scientist at Nasa. The Haryana government, ahead of winter, accumulated 16,000 machines that were given to farmers for in-situ paddy straw management. It had also appointed 7,000 nodal officers and set up dedicated call centre teams to check stubble burning.Government data suggests much of the straw that was left behind after paddy harvests was utilised or sold onwards. This season, Haryana generated around 93 lakh metric tonnes of straw. Of this, 24 lakh MT was being used as cattle fodder, 31 lakh MT was being managed in-situ and 17 lakh MT ex-situ. Around 13.5 lakh tonnes of straw was procured by industries."We are providing machinery to farmers at the earliest. We have also prepared a staggered harvesting schedule for paddy. Gram panchayats that achieved zero-burning targets will be awarded Rs 1 lakh or Rs 50,000," said Darshan Singh, technical assistant, Haryana agriculture department.Farmers said it was also a breather for them. "Farm fires were fewer as industries bought large quantities of straw. If there is utility, why would anyone burn it? Earlier, there was a lack of space to keep straw and collect it. Things are smoother now," said Teja Singh, a farmer in Karnal.Though stubble burning contributes to air pollution, experts said, it isnt the only factor causing it. "What we now need is to focus on curbing local emissions in cities across Delhi-NCR. Farm fires are already going down, and this is the way forward to reduce pollution in the region," Tiwari said. At 579, Fatehabad reported the highest number of farm fires this season, followed by Jind (343), Kaithal (262), Ambala (195), Sirsa (161), Kurukshetra (154), Karnal (126), Hisar (111), Yamunanagar (98), Sonipat (78), Rohtak (71), Palwal (57), Panipat (25), Jhajjar (20), Faridabad (9), Bhiwani (10), Charkhi Dadri (2) and Panchkula (1).

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