Over 50% of crop stubble burning incidents in Punjab between September 1 and October 6 were centered in Amritsar and Tarn Taran, while Kurukshetra, Karnal and Ambala districts in Haryana recorded the major chunk of “red dots” captured on Nasa’s satellite imagery.
Pawan Gupta, senior scientist at Universities Space Research Association, Nasa, who analysed VIIRS satellite data between September 1 and October 6, said clear hotspots had emerged during this period, with Amritsar showing a high fire count.
“Fires detected by VIIRS SNPP satellite data and Fire Information for Resource Management System showed hotspots in both Punjab and Haryana. Overall, the fire count is only expected to increase in the coming days as the monsoon begins to withdraw,” added Gupta.
LS Kurinji, programme associate at Council on Energy, Environment and Water, said data had shown over 340 farm fires so far in Punjab, while 68 were recorded in Haryana. However, the hotspots hadn’t changed much compared with data of the last five years.
“So far, fires have mostly been spotted in Amritsar and Tarn Taran in Punjab and Kurukshetra, Karnal and Ambala in Haryana, similar to the trend observed in corresponding periods over the past five years. Taking cues from historical data, the Punjab government should focus on efficient logistics management of existing crop residue management options in these hotspots to ensure timely access to farmers,” said Kurinji.
Amit Banka, founder and CEO of WeNaturalists, an environment-centric social network, said stubble burning was not a recent phenomenon, with states now knowing fully well what the problem was. However, timely solutions were still not being provided to farmers.
“It’s now time to focus on the solutions. In countries like the UK and China, it has been banned and alternatives adopted. There are multiple options available, including promoting low lignocellulosic crops, using manure and decomposition techniques or simply using new machines and technologies,” added Banka.
Last year, Punjab recorded its highest fire count since 2016, while Haryana showed a significant improvement, recording numbers lower than the last five years. Stubble burning tends to pick up in both states as well as Uttar Pradesh from the second week of October when harvesting season begins. Unable to remove the stubble on time before planting the next crop, farmers often resort to burning the residue.