Stubble fire rages on, official data missing

| | New Delhi
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Stubble fire rages on, official data missing

Thursday, 09 November 2023 | Rajesh Kumar | New Delhi

The incidents  of stubble burning have witnessed a surge with the harvesting of paddy in full swing in Punjab,  Haryana  and Uttar Pradesh but the surge does not reflect in the official data of farm fires recorded by satellites.

There are reports that farmers in Punjab and Haryana are scheduling the stubble burning sessions at night in a bid to skip detection by the orbiting satellites. Enquiries revealed that all incidents of farm fires do not get detected as the satellite imaging is not conducted round the clock. The fires during night may also not get detected by satellite(s) due to technical reasons.

Of 70,286 farmers, 56,229 (80 per cent) harvested paddy crop in Ludhiana but only 993 farm fires were reported and just 118 peasants fined so far which clearly indicates that a significant number of stubble burning incidents are going undetected. This is happening in almost all districts in these three States.

Farmers are taking advantage of a loophole where the daily stubble burning count must be updated by 8 pm, setting fires after this time. Satellite imaging is also not conducted round the clock, allowing some fires to go unnoticed. In Haryana, the Haryana Space Applications Centre is using satellite imaging to detect farm fires. This imaging, however, is not conducted round the clock. Besides,  Radars and Satellites do not detect stubble burning due to heavy clouds.

The data used for detecting fires are received from NASA’s Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) and Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS). The VIIRS sensor aboard the Suomi National Polar-Orbiting Partnership (SNPP) satellite has a resolution of 375 metre square, which means it can locate a fire accurately within an area of 375x375 sqm. A single fire within this area will be attributed to the entire area. Similarly, multiple fires in this area will be counted as one fire.

A dataset from the Consortium for Research on Agroecosystem Monitoring and Modelling from Space (CREAMS), managed by the Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI), monitors stubble burning and provides daily reports. It revealed that the total number of farm fires in Punjab has jumped to 22,981 this year, with 2,003 new cases reported in the last 24 hours.

Out of the total 22,981 farm fires recorded from September 15 to November 8, Sangrur leads with 4,070, followed by 2,176 in Ferozepur.

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