Stubble burning incidents on the rise in Punjab, 2,544 fires on Nov 15

Experts attribute the increase to delayed harvesting, with concentrated burning expected to persist for a week

Representative image of farmers in north India burn stubble in preparation for the winter crop (photo: Getty Images)
Representative image of farmers in north India burn stubble in preparation for the winter crop (photo: Getty Images)

NH Digital

The numbers of incidents of stubble burning have continued to rise in Punjab with the state having recorded 2,544 fires on Wednesday, 15 November. It was 1,776 incidents on Tuesday (14 November) and 1,271 on Thursday (16 November). This is despite the Supreme Court ordering the neighbouring states to ensure no stubble burning happens.

This is more than double the figures from early November— 639 instances on 9 November, 6 on 10 November, 104 on 11 November and 987 on 12 November.

Of the farm fires reported on Thursday, Moga recorded maximum such cases at 237, followed by 170 in Bathinda, 145 in Barnala, 129 in Sangrur, 113 in Faridkot and 110 in Ludhiana, according to the Punjab Remote Sensing Centre data.

Delayed harvesting has led to the concentrated burning of crop residue, said experts. Instances of fire are likely to be on the higher side for a week.

Satellite data compiled by Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI) shows that daily stubble burning in 2022 was less than 1,000 from November 17 onwards and dipped to below 100 on November 24. Similarly, in 2021, the per day counts stayed below 1,000 from November 17 and dropped to below 100 on November 22.

The cumulative count compared to the past four years is the lowest in Punjab so far this season. From September 15 to November 16, Punjab has witnessed 31,932 stubble burning counts, when it was 46,822 in 2022. In the same period, Haryana recorded 1,986 farm fires in 2023 and 3,233 in 2022.

Punjab government officials on Wednesday said they registered 83 first information reports against farmers caught burning paddy stubble. Over the entire course of the stubble burning season, the police have filed only 336 cases against violating cultivators.

In contrast, UP has seen a rise in burning instances. UP recorded 2,113 crop residue burning incidents from September 15 to November 16 in 2023, as against 1,505 in 2022, showed the IARI data.

Paddy straw burning in Punjab and Haryana is considered one of the reasons behind the alarming spike in air pollution levels in the national capital in October and November.

Meanwhile, Haryana's Narnaul and Faridabad reported an air quality index (AQI) of 423 each, followed by 404 in Rohtak, 385 in Bhiwani, 368 in Gurugram, 358 in Hisar, 355 in Sonipat, 328 in Fatehabad, 326 in Jind and 305 in Kaithal.

Last week, the Supreme Court directed Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan to ensure that crop residue burning was stopped "forthwith".

A bench of Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Sudhanshu Dhulia said Delhi can't be made to go through this year after year. "There cannot be a political battle every time," the bench told the counsel representing the Punjab government.

The court also directed the Delhi government to ensure that municipal solid waste was not burnt in the open.

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