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VIIRS satellite data from 2016 onward showed a spike in farm fires in the last week of September and first week of October, with 50-100 counts being recorded daily in 2017. However, this year the average count per day touched over 150 in the last week of September and ranged between 150 and 200 in the first week of October.
Pawan Gupta, senior scientist at Universities Space Research Association, Nasa, who analysed the data, said, “Data shows that farm fires are limited to a few districts in north Punjab, mostly concentrated in Amritsar and Tarn Taran districts. However, other districts are gradually picking up.”
“Satellite analysis through GEOS forecasts shows that while air quality in the eastern states is expected to improve over the next three days, cities in the Indo-Gangetic plain could record a spike in the PM2.5 concentration during this period,” added Gupta.
LS Kurinji, research analyst at Council on Energy, Environment and Water, said, “Though we saw a marginal rise in fires in early October this year compared with the same period over the last few years, it is important to look at the data for the entire season to draw year-on-year comparisons. Early fires observed in districts like Amritsar and Tarn Taran in Punjab could be attributed to multiple factors, including sowing of early maturing paddy varieties or adoption of direct seeding technique.”
System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting And Research (SAFAR), a body under Union ministry of earth sciences, stated that PM2.5 was the lead pollutant at present and air quality would worsen.
“A gradual increase in stubble burning was observed on Wednesday in Punjab, Haryana and bordering regions. The fire count was 399 on Wednesday. Currently, the boundary layer, wind direction and speed are favourable for the transport of pollutants towards Delhi. However, a shift in wind direction is forecast, which is likely to extend the moderate air quality condition for a few more days,” SAFAR stated on Thursday.