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Farm fire cases on the decline, Parliament told

Dec 14, 2023 05:14 AM IST

Incidents of paddy-stubble burning during a 45-day harvesting cycle in northern states in the current season have declined by 54

Incidents of paddy-stubble burning during a 45-day harvesting cycle in northern states in the current season have declined by 54.2% compared to the corresponding period of last year, the government has stated in Parliament.

Farm fire cases on the decline, Parliament told
Farm fire cases on the decline, Parliament told

Farmers in Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Delhi, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan burn crop residue to clear fields after paddy harvesting, which causes an annual spell of toxic smog across north India during winter. The national capital witnesses severe levels of the pollution during this period.

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Between Sept 15 and October 29 this year, total incidents of farm fires in major paddy growing regions of Haryana, Punjab, national capital region-Uttar Pradesh and national capital region-Rajasthan and Delhi stood at 6,391 in 2023 in contrast to 13,964 counts in the corresponding period in 2022, a drop of 54.2%, agriculture minister Arjun Munda stated in a reply on Tuesday. Compared to the corresponding period of 2021, this represents a reduction of 44.3% respectively, the minister said.

To be sure, the figures tabled in Parliament referred to the number of fires detected through satellite technology and not the total area affected by these incidents.

Across these northern states, farmers set fire to paddy stalks after harvesting rice around October to clear their fields for their next crop, wheat. Paddy is grown during summer and harvested in autumn.

These fires release millions of tonne of smoke, carbon dioxide stored in plant biomass, toxins and planet-warming gases in the atmosphere. Some environmentalists reckon this to be the deadliest spell of pollution in all of South Asia.

The agriculture ministry runs a crop residue management scheme to fund Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and NCT of Delhi to subsidize machinery required by farmers for managing crop residue and prevent crop-residue burning.

Laying a statement before the lower house, the minister stated that active fire events due to rice-residue burning are monitored using satellite-based remote sensing, following a “standard protocol for estimation of crop residue burning”.

The monitoring of fire incidents is led by the Consortium for Research on Agroecosystem Monitoring and Modelling from Space (CREAMS) laboratory, in the division of agricultural physics of the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR).

The CREAMS facility operates its own “X & L-band” satellite ground stations to receive direct remote-sensing images from a range of international satellite constellations, along with a geo-spatial laboratory with advanced computing capabilities. These features allow the Centre to detect farm fires, the minister said.

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR
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    Zia Haq reports on public policy, economy and agriculture. Particularly interested in development economics and growth theories.

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