The number of fires in Punjab’s farmland this year has surpassed last year’s tally to the highest since 2016, and combined with the incidents recorded in Haryana, the cases recorded this month are four times higher than those observed until the end of October.
SAFAR data, viewed by HT, shows that the contribution of farm fires to PM2.5 levels in Delhi ranged from 6% to 48% in November. On average, this stands at 23%, although the contribution of farm fires to Delhi’s PM2.5 levels has declined in recent days. From November 14 to November 17, his contribution was 12%, 10%, 8% and 6%.
The farm fire analysis is based on a study of data from the VIIRS-SNP satellite by a NASA scientist, who said that while daily numbers have started to decline, it is not clear whether the record for 2016 will go uninterrupted – and if the fires continue, the threat of bad air continues to loom over Delhi.
An analysis of past air quality and farm fire data at the time released by HT on Tuesday showed that stubble burning serves to push the AQI into the very poor (300-400) or severe category. (400-500), once the winter conditions already aggravate the local pollution.
For example, between October 20 and November 14 of this year, Delhi’s Air Quality Index (AQI) was in the severe zone for seven days. On each of these days, the contribution of farm fires to Delhi’s PM2.5 contribution was between 26% and 48%.
Pawan Gupta, a researcher at Goddard Earth Sciences Technology and Research (GESTAR), Universities Space Research Association (USRA), who carried out the analysis of the farm fire data, said: “As the numbers started to drop , the daily tally is still over 1,000, which is still high. It is now the second worst year in history, but we will have to see whether or not this trend continues in the next two weeks ”.
Until November 16, the Punjab recorded 74,015 farm fires, up from 72,373 in the same period last year. In 2016, that figure stood at 84,886.
A similar analysis by the Energy, Environment and Water Council (CEEW) showed that the number of farm fires for the same period in Punjab, Haryana and UP collectively affected 85,604 fires. – more than 5,000 more during the same period last year. This total is also now the second highest behind 2016, when 104,605 fires were recorded.
Haryana also continues to record alarming numbers, with CEEW data showing 8,663 fires spotted by satellites between October 1 and November 16, nearly double the figure of 4,831 last year.
“While the number of farm fires in Punjab and Haryana combined was only 20,723 until October 31, it quadrupled to 82,870 in the first half of November . As the end of the season approaches, the number of fires should now start to drop in the coming days, ”said LS Kurinji, program associate at CEEW.
She said with the Punjab figure now eclipsing last year’s tally, there is also a need for ex post political analysis to identify why the figure continues to stay high.
S Narayanan, secretary member of the Haryana State Pollution Control Board (HSPCB), said a majority of the area under rice cultivation in the state has already been harvested, and is very little remained. “We are tracking each district, according to CAQM guidelines and using ISRO satellite numbers. Our figures show that the total number of fires is only about 6,000 fires. There is now very little area left in Haryana for harvesting, ”he said.
K Garg, member secretary of the Punjab Pollution Control Board (PPCB) also cited ISRO satellite figures and claimed that the number of fires this year was lower than last year.
“The data shows that last year the number of fires was around 79,000 so far, while the number so far we believe is 69,000. The area burned is also smaller this year.” Garg said, saying the number of fires in Punjab has dramatically decreased. “It’s just a matter of days now,” he added.
Anumita Roy Chowdhury, executive director of research and advocacy at the Center for Science and the Environment (CSE), said the Punjab had seen a late increase in numbers this year, making it difficult to predict when the numbers will decline. . “In general, we see a big drop after November 15. We will see a clearer trend by next week,” she said.
(with contributions from Abhishek Jha)