Ludhiana, India: Stubble burning in lakhs of agricultural fields by farmers of the Indian state of Punjab has finally caught the eye of NASA. The Aqua satellite of NASA has sent images of the state”s agri farms in which entire Punjab appears to be literally on fire, from the low earth orbit. There is a ban on stubble burning in Punjab but it goes up in smoke every year as paddy and wheat fields are ignited by farmers once the harvest season is over.
The images of the burning of paddy straw were captured by the satellite on October 31. The fields appear as little red dots of fire. NASA has commented on its website, “What is striking about the images is the large number of fires. Smoke from hundreds of fires obscures most of the Punjab region of India.”
Without commenting on the harmful effects of stubble burning on soil fertility and environment, NASA has observed that “this area is a major source of agriculture for India, producing approximately two-thirds of the country”s food”. Ban on stubble burning has not been implemented properly and there have hardly been any police case against farmers who flout the law.
Reacting to NASA pictures, Mukhtar Singh Gill, a professor at Punjab Agricultural University (PAU), Ludhiana, said, “This is a big problem as it not only kills microbes in the soil but also causes air pollution. We have been creating awareness among farmers not to burn the stubble.” Most farmers prefer to burn the stubble instead of taking it to five biomass plants due to high transportation cost.
In every district of the state, deputy commissioners issue prohibitory orders under Section 144 of CrPC banning stubble burning but the ritual largely remains confined to paper. “Government does not want to annoy farmers and action is taken only when fire causes some major damage,” said an official of the agriculture department.