Stubble burning spikes in Punjab

Stubble burning spikes in Punjab

Delhi grapples with pollution

Smoke rises as a farmer burns paddy stubbles at a village on the outskirts of Amritsar, despite a ban, before growing the next crop. PTI Photo

As Punjab and New Delhi trade charges over stubble burning and alarming poor air quality in the national capital, the incidents of stubble burning in agrarian Punjab have suddenly spiked in the last four days.

This unprecedented increase in cases of stubble burning in Punjab fields gives credence to allegations by Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal that the agrarian border state was polluting Delhi’s air quality.

Since last Friday, over 10,000 cases of stubble burning have been recorded through the visible infrared imaging radiometer suite (VIIRS), which is in excess of 40% of the total such incidents that have taken place this season. Until October 21, there were only 2,500 such cases. Experts say the field fires usually spike in the last leg of harvest, which is why there were fewer fires in October.

Punjab claims its air quality index (AQI) is well within satisfactory norms and cannot be blamed for the pollution mess in the national capital. “Can Kejriwal really be an IIT graduate?” Punjab Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh said on Sunday, pointing to the ‘irrationality’ of his Delhi counterpart’s reasoning.

During a media interaction in Chandigarh a couple of days ago, Kejriwal had claimed that while most of the time the AQI in Delhi remains moderate, it worsens between October 25 and November 20 because of high incidents of stubble burning in neighbouring Punjab.

Capt countered saying the AQI of Delhi remains more than 300 even during December and January every year when there is no stubble burning in the neighbouring states. “This clearly indicates that the New Delhi environment is impacted by its own sources within Delhi, which are predominantly vehicular emission, construction activities, industrial activities, power plants, burning of municipal solid waste and sweeping activities,” he added.

Punjab denies

It's Kejriwal’s attempt to divert public attention from his own government’s abysmal failure on all counts, he alleged. Amarinder pointed out that as per the latest report of air pollution forecast by Weather Research and Forecasting Model of the India Meteorological Department, winds over Delhi-NCR had changed from north-westerly to easterly, so there was hardly any influence from crop fires in Punjab and Haryana.