New Delhi: The increasing wheat crop stubble burning in Punjab and Haryana had made matters worse for Delhi's air, with this week showing an increase in the practice.
However, NASA's recent satellite images have calmed the authorities slightly, after they revealed that the stubble burning practice was much less this year as compared to what it was in the same period last year.
Although ground reports portray the two state governments' firm approach as a success, angry farmers demanding an alternative solution may pose bigger challenges.
As per a report in the Time of India (TOI), NASA's FIRM web fire mapper, which uses satellite imagery to map instances of fires on the ground, shows a marked reduction in 'fire spots' in the two states in 2017 over the previous year. The same eight-day period (April 27-May 4, both days included) was used to make the comparison.
The practice of burning of crop stubble after the kharif (October-November) and rabi (April-May) seasons in the two states is seen as a major contributor to air pollution in the region, including Delhi-NCR.
Air quality in Delhi is another indicator of reduced crop burning this year. A comparison of an eight-day AQI average (April 27-May 4, both days included) of 2016 and 2017 shows air in the capital this year has been far healthier than the last. AQI during the period this year has been in the moderate zone (176) while it was 'very poor' last year at 307. Of course, weather conditions as well as raging forest fires in Uttarakhand also contributed to air pollution in Delhi last year, TOI reported.
The state pollution control board, agriculture department and the districts are using remote sensing to monitor straw burning. Nearly 200 farmers have been fined in various districts till May 3. On Thursday, seven farmers were fined Rs 17,500 for burning straw in Muktsar district.
The state has fixed a fine of Rs 2,500 for burning straw in fields up to 2 acres, Rs 5,000 for farms up to 5 acres and Rs 15,000 for those over 5 acres. Most of the fines slapped so far have been on fields below 5 acres, a state government official told TOI.