PATIALA: With farm fires rising this year, the state government would be hoping that its move to give Rs 665 crore as financial help to cooperative societies and farmers for purchasing agricultural machines to curb stubble burning , would help put the brakes on the practice this time around.
Even as a number of progressive farmers across the state have started sowing wheat by using machines like “happy seeder” and not setting paddy residue on fire, the number of farm fires in Punjab this year continues to be more than those in the corresponding period last year. Till Tuesday, 4,036 cases of farm fires had been reported in the state. This figure is 25% more than the figure for last year. Then, the number of farm fires reported during the same period (September 23 to October 22) was 3,214. According to satellite imagery for this year, 639 cases have been reported in Amritsar , 839 in Tarn Taran, and 484 in Patiala.
As part of a two-year plan to build infrastructure for managing crop residue, the Centre had set aside Rs 665 crore for Punjab. Out of this, Rs 270 crore was spent last year to provide 80% subsidy to cooperative societies and other groups, and 50% subsidy to individual farmers, for purchasing 38,000 stubble management machines.
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The remaining Rs 395 crore has been spent this year.
An official said the total burnt area in the state had come down by almost 9% this year and this was a good sign, suggesting that farmers were proactively participating in efforts to shun the practice.
Despite a rise in the number of fire incidents, the ambient air quality in the state is still in the moderate zone. According to experts, this year the north westerlies are blowing at a considerable speed. This, along with moderate temperatures, was helping disperse pollutants, said an expert.
On Tuesday, the ambient air quality index (AQI) was recorded at 103 ug/m3 in Bathinda, 133 ug/m3 in Jalandhar , 150 ug/m3 in Khanna, and 175 ug/m3 in Ludhiana, 216 ug/m3 in Mandi Gobindgarh , 121 ug/m3 in Patiala, and 83 ug/m3 in Rupnagar .