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IARI data shows spike in farm fires post monsoon; situation better than last year

New Delhi,Punjab and Haryana have recorded a significant increase in farm fires after the withdrawal of the monsoon season from north India, though the situation so far is better than last year, data from the Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI) suggests.

Between September 15 and October 10, Punjab has recorded 764 incidents of crop residue burning in 2021 compared to 2,586 in the corresponding period last year.

Haryana has recorded 196 farm fires so far against 353 logged during the period last year.

IARI data shows the number of farm fires remained considerably low till October 6, when the southwest monsoon started withdrawing from northwest India.

Punjab recorded only 63 stubble burning incidents from October 1 to October 5 as compared to 486 cases from October 6 to October 10.

Similarly, Haryana recorded 17 such events from October 1 to October 5 compared to 172 cases from October 6 to October 10, the IARI data showed.

Vinay Sehgal, a scientist at IARI, said the number of farm fires remained low till the first week of October because of the delayed paddy harvesting on account of an extended monsoon season.

“Even the farmers who had harvested their produce could not burn the straw because it was wet,” he said, citing reports from the ground.

Sehgal said the IARI expects that there will be lesser farm fires this season compared to last year.

“Governments are more conscious about stubble management this time. Also, a large number of farmers had burnt paddy straw in protest (against farm laws) last year,” he said.

Though stubble burning has increased since October 6, the daily number is still low as compared to 2020, Sehgal added.

The IARI scientist said the states recorded a gradual decrease in paddy straw burning from 2016 to 2019 and the spike last year can be attributed to farmers’ protest.

“We don’t expect to do better than 2019, but we hope the number will be less than last year,” he added.

Punjab had recorded 1.02 lakh incidents of stubble burning in 2016. The number decreased to 67,079 in 2017; 59,684 in 2018 and 50,738 in 2019 from October 1 to November 30. The state logged 79,093 such incidents last year, according to the IARI.

Haryana saw 15,686 farm fires in 2016; 13,085 in 2017; 9,225 in 2018; 6,364 in 2019 and 5,678 in 2020.

Punjab and Haryana attract attention during the paddy harvesting season in October and November.

Farmers set their fields on fire to quickly clear off the crop residue before cultivating wheat and potato. It is one of the main reasons for the alarming spike in pollution in Delhi-NCR. PTI