Even as over 1100 incidents of stubble burning have been reported in Punjab this paddy harvesting season, the Punjab Pollution Control Board (PPCB) has recorded a drop of over 44 per cent in such incidents as compared to 2016.

As per figures maintained by the PPCB and reviewed by The Statesman,  in 2016 as many as 1965 incidents of stubble burning were captured by Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) on the satellite, which sends images of fire incidents to the Ludhiana-based Punjab Remote Sensing Centre (PRSC), till 11 October.

During the same period (27 September to 11 October ) in 2017, the number of stubble burning incidents – which cause massive pollution in the region every year – has come down to 1102.

“Due to coordinated efforts by different government departments to reach out to farmers and encourage them to desist from stubble burning, this year there is about 50 per cent drop in stubble burning cases this year as compared to 2016,” said the chief environmental engineer, PPCB, Krunesh Garg. The PPCB chairman KS Pannu could not be reached for comment despite repeated attempts.

Sources said tough administrative measures taken by the Punjab government have also a played part in reducing the number of stubble burning incidents this year.

Taking its fight against stubble burning to new level, Punjab government ordered for making red entry into revenue records of farmers violating the ban on stubble burning.

This red entry in revenue records of farmers may later be used to deny them benefits of welfare schemes. They may also lose benefits of government schemes for the agriculture sector including the subsidies for equipment, seeds and fertilizer subsidies for farming sector.

As per the measures suggested by PPCB chairman Pannu,  government employees who also do farming have also been warned of disciplinary action if they are found violating the ban on stubble burning.

“As a result of the steps we have taken, there has been a reduction in number of stubble burning incidents this year and many farmers are coming forward to learn or adopt the methods to manage the stubble scientifically  which is good both the soil fertility and environment,” said an official.

Of the nearly 22 million tons of paddy straw generated in Punjab every year, only 21.8 per cent is consumed in biomass based projects or other uses, while a small portion is managed through other systems such as machinery and equipment.