In the past three days, Punjab has witnessed a surge in farm fires, with over 2,600 cases recorded. This is a significant increase compared to the 654 cases recorded last month. The total number of farm fires reached 3,269 cases on Sunday alone, with the wheat harvest coming to an end. The sudden rise in farm fires is due to farmers preparing their fields for the upcoming paddy season, which starts in June.
Experts warn that the number of farm fires is likely to increase in the coming weeks, as the wet spell is over. These fires continue to pollute the air, making it hazardous for residents. The Punjab Pollution Control Board (PPCB) website records show that the state had 13,420 farm fires in 2020, 10,100 in 2021, and 14,511 in 2022. This season, to date, 3,269 cases have been recorded.
The rising price of dry fodder, made of wheat straw, is one of the reasons why farmers continue to burn their fields. Agriculture officials state that most farmers use wheat stubble to make fodder and then set its roots on fire. Despite the levying of fines worth crores of rupees on erring farmers, many refuse to pay. According to officials, these farmers, backed by farm unions, have even taken officials hostage.
Patiala Chief Agriculture Officer Harinder Singh explains that the agriculture department is trying to create awareness among farmers to avoid burning fields. However, with the price of dry fodder continuing to rise, it remains to be seen if farmers will comply. With the air quality in the region likely to deteriorate further, the state government will need to take urgent steps to address this issue.