Official data showed that the number of reported cases of wheat stubble burning in Punjab is close to 9,000 in the ongoing wheat harvest season, giving the state an uncharacteristic spike in pollution levels during peak summer.
According to data provided by the Punjab Pollution Control Board (PPCB), a total of 8,740 farm fire cases have been reported in this year’s Rabi season since Sunday. Those fires, officials said, caused an increase in pollution in several areas.
The increasing number of farm fires has become a concern of the PPCB and the state agriculture department as stubble burning not only causes pollution but also wastes wheat straw that can be used as fodder for dairy cows, a PPCB official said.
However, the number of farm fires has decreased this year. In 2022, the number of farm fires reported up to May 12 (the latest data available) was 13,558. This year, 8,740 farm fires were reported between April 1 and May 14, the PPCB said.
A farmer from Bajak village in Bathinda, Baldev Singh, said that while the process of burning stumps can be easily avoided, most farmers lack resources. “The government should support farmers to alleviate this problem,” he said.
Meanwhile, Punjab’s air quality index worsened last week, data showed. At the beginning of May, AQI levels in Ludhiana were 100 (in the “satisfactory” zone), but there was a clear upward trend after 7 May. In Amritsar, the AQI jumped from 120 on 8 May to 220 (in a poor zone) on 11 May.
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