At least 1,206 incidents of stubble burning have been recorded in the first two weeks of paddy harvesting in Punjab that began from September 21 this year. The number is almost five-time the number of cases (264) recorded during the kharif harvest of 2019 in the corresponding time period.
Amritsar has reported over 50% of total stubble fires, recording 686 cases, followed by 259 in Tarn Taran, Gurdaspur (50) and Patiala (60).
"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," an officer of the state's agriculture department said, attributing the early harvest for the rise in cases.
The Punjab Pollution Control Board (PPCB), however, claims that there has not been a rise in stubble burning. "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," board's member secretary Krunesh Garg said.
In 2018 and 2019 seasons, the number of cases surpassed 50,000, Garg added.
To check these fires, the state government has ordered 8,000 nodal officers to monitor paddy growing villages. There are 10,500 villages in the state, where paddy has grown over 66 lakh acre this year. Of this, 17.5 lakh acre is long grain aromatic basmati.
The PPCB has also imposed environment compensation of ₹9.3 lakh on 350 farmers who were caught burning paddy stubble this year.
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 ₹50,000," SS Marwaha, PPCB chairman.