Crop-residue fires in Punjab and Haryana are up 5% as compared to the same period last year, as per NASA satellite data, but officials and experts say this figure could be misleading as the number of fires per unit area of harvested rice is so far lower this year, at least in Punjab.
Data from state agencies reveal that 10.2 lakh hectares of paddy crop had been harvested in Punjab by October 22, 18% higher than the corresponding acreage in 2018, which was around 8.6 lakh hectares.
After analysing data from figures from the Punjab State Agricultural Marketing Board and CREAMS Laboratory at ICAR-IARI New Delhi, “The increase in the area of harvested crop so far is more than the rise in crop-residue fires. Which means that fires per unit area of harvested paddy are lower this year,” said M L Jat, principal scientist at the international agriculture non-profit agency, Cimmyt
The rice/paddy arrivals in Punjab’s grain markets until October 22 was over 67 lakh tonnes, almost one million tonnes higher than 57.2 lakh tonnes recorded till the same date in 2018, Jat said.
On the flip, the data reveals that only around one-third of the area under paddy in Punjab, approximately 30 lakh ha, had been harvested so far. This means that most of the harvesting will take place after Diwali, when a higher rate of stubble-burning can be expected, irrespective of whether the total number of fires decreases or increases this year.
Trilochan Mohapatra, secretary in the department of agricultural research and education under the Union agriculture ministry, said farm fires had so far been higher than expected due to assembly elections in Haryana and bypolls to five Punjab assembly seats.