Punjab farm fires pick up again, NGT directs PPCB to take remedial measures

Patiala, October 24: After witnessing a lull in the second week of October, farm fires have picked up again in Punjab. As many as 502 fire incidents were reported in the state in the past four days, with 174 fire incidents (highest in the season so far) reported on October 20, followed by 146 on October 21, 30 on October 22 and 152 today.

Experts monitoring farm fires said that stubble-burning incidents may pick up pace from Dasehra and may peak on Diwali, worsening the air quality in the region. Pavneet Kaur Kingra, head, department of climate change and agricultural meteorology at Punjab Agricultural University (PAU) said still air conditions are prevailing across the region with wind blowing at just 2 km per hour, worsening the air quality. If stubble burning events increase, these could push up the pollution level as suspended particles would remain locked in the air due to cold conditions at the ground level.

Taking note of the rising fire incidents and the deteriorating pollution level in the National Capital Region (NCR), the National Green Tribunal (NGT) has directed Punjab Pollution Control Board (PPCB) to identify the worst-affected areas within the hotspot districts and focus on those areas with proper remedial measures. The PPCB has mentioned the names of eight districts with poor track record. Sangrur, Bathinda and Ferozepur had witnessed 5,239, 4,592 and 4,295 farm fires, respectively, last year.

Reacting to the NGT notice, Adarsh Pal Vig, Chairperson, PPCB, said, “We had mentioned in our previous report that a spike in fire events was witnessed in Amritsar and the neighbouring district of Tarn Taran soon after the harvest season began. But the state government managed to effectively curb the stubble burning incidents. Now, the NGT has directed to prepare another report to identify the worst-affected areas within the hotspot districts and on the remedial measures taken.”

He said that the number of farm fires this time is much less compared to the previous years. A total of 6,058 farm fires were reported across the state till October 23, 2021. In 2022, 4,598 cases were reported during the same period. This year, a total of 1,946 farm fires have been reported in the state from September 15 to October 23.

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