70% drop in stubble fires likely this season in Punjab

Stubble burning in Punjab and bordering Haryana is the main cause of air pollution not only in the two states but also in Delhi. But this season, Punjab is expecting not more than 12,000 stubble burning incidents - a decrease of about 70% compared to previous year, on the back of a ‘vigorous’ awareness campaign as well as distribution of crop residue management machinery, said an official.

Punjab Agriculture Secretary K S Pannu told media that, this year they are not expecting more than 10,000 to 12,000 stubble burning incidents. The number farm fires are decreasing year by year. According to official data, 80879 stubble burning incidents were reported in Punjab in 2016 that dropped to 43,814 in 2017.

Till now, 1212 cases of paddy stubble burning have been reported in the state as against 3141 and 6733 in the same periods in 2017 and 2016. As per data, Amritsar has reported around 412 stubble burning incidents so far in 2018, the states’ highest.

Moreover, Ludhiana-based Punjab Remote Sensing Centre (PRSC) has captured satellite images of farm fires and based on those images, the concerned district authorities have been put on alert. The state has also started a massive awareness drive for the farmers to check the stubble burning cases. Besides this, Punjab is also betting on equipments for effective crop management. It has set a target of delivering 24,972 farm equipments that includes - happy seeder, mulcher, paddy straw chopper, reversible mould board ploughs, zero till drill, shrub cutter, super straw management system on combine harvesters, rotary slasher as well as rotavator for managing paddy straw.

The minister informed that "until now around 20,000 machines have been given to individual farmers, cooperative societies and custom hiring centers and in a week the rest of the machines will also be distributed."

Regarding the farmers’ claim that the use of machines puts an added cost burden of Rs 5,000-6,000 per acre on them, Pannu said, "The cost of managing paddy remains through these machines is minimal." The Centre has also approved Rs 695 crore to Punjab and Rs 137 crore to Haryana for promotion of agricultural mechanization for in-situ management of crop residue. Additionally, the two states are providing a 50% subsidy on machines to individual farmers and 80% to cooperative societies.

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