Alarming Nasa images show massive fires in large parts of India
Nasa images show substantial crop fires in states with rice-wheat cropping system.
Alarming images from National Aeronautics and Space Administration (Nasa) show large parts of India dotted with fires. The images are of the past ten days and show scary pictures of fires stretching across Indian states of Uttar Pradesh (UP), Madhya Pradesh (MP), Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh, and even some southern states.
Besides, owing to the hot weather conditions in India at present, these fires are intensifying heat and causing black carbon (a component of soot with high global warming effect) pollution.
Although some of these dots may be forest fires, but according to Hiren Jethva, research scientist at Nasa Goddard Space Flight Center, fires in central India may be mostly crop fires.
Now, agricultural scientists are considering that the rise in crop fires in recent years is due to the dependence of farmers on combine harvesters, which leave short stubble behind.
The practice of burning paddy stubble is common as it is unsuitable as fodder however burning wheat stubble has gained momentum only recently.
Moreover, Nasa images show substantial crop fires in states with rice-wheat cropping system. Hence, agricultural scientists strongly believe that acute shortage of labour has given rise to combine harvesters which is a faster and cheapest mode of harvesting and preparing the soil for paddy.
"I suspect that the use of combine harvesters is increasing across the country. During my research, I found single most important determinant of burning crop residue is the use of combine harvesters. Farmers find it cheaper to burn residue than to clear it manually by employing labour. Also farmers are finding it harder to maintain animals or that fodder practices have changed, leading to farmers burning off even wheat residue. But this requires to be backed by research," says Ridhima Gupta, Indian School of Business researcher, who studied the economics of farm fires in Punjab.
According to Ridhima, crop stubble burning accounts for nearly 14 per cent of India's black carbon emissions.
The highest number of fires is being seen in MP where recently about 10 farmers have already been detained this year in Sehore for burning wheat stubble that spread fire to nearby farms. Earlier in April, stubble fire spread on almost 1,500 ha in MP's Harda and Betul districts.
State's junior agriculture minister Balkrishna Patidar was quoted as saying in The Times of India, "We have been asking farmers to not burn crop residue as it is harmful not only for themselves, but also for the soil and environment. Still, the practice continues."